PKL 8: Chiyaneh overpowers prodigal son Pardeep in Pirates' dominant semifinal win

Patna Pirates defender Mohammadreza Shadloui Chiyaneh grabs an ankle hold on UP Yoddha raider Surender Gill PKL

Mohammadreza Chiyaneh defends like no one else in the Pro Kabaddi League. Designated an all-rounder, he is the Patna Pirates' left corner. Unlike most corners, who are by virtue of job description squat and solid with a low centre-of-gravity, Chiyaneh is tall and lanky. Whenever a raid comes into his side of the court, he drops to one knee and slithers around, inviting raiders in. Anyone who takes the invite... well, they either get caught in a ridiculously strong ankle hold (as Shrikant Jadhav did) or get smashed by right corner Sunil and five other Pirates (as Pardeep Narwal did). If you don't take the invite, Chiyaneh takes three steps and he's covering you at the other corner. His ability to cover large distances in such rapid fashion is unmatched. There's simply no escape.

Two top-ten raiders in the team, including a true GOAT of the sport in Pardeep, and UP Yoddha had just five raid points in the first half. In a PKL semifinal. Yoddha scored 9 points in the opening 20 minutes - the Pirates' defence alone had 9, without a single super tackle. At half time it was 23-9, at full time it was 38-27 but the dominance was absolute.

Pardeep, who had single-handedly powered Yoddha to a massive win in their eliminator, was completely shackled. His first point of the match came in the 18th minute. The eighteenth. Multiple times he scraped the half-way line but was pulled back by the pack in green.

Sajin Chandrashekar and Neeraj Kumar in the centre, Sunil on the right, and Chiyaneh... almost everywhere. Yodhha's raiders didn't have a clue. Chiyaneh, in fact, racked up his 10th high-five of the season at the half-hour mark with, appropriately, a sensational solo tackle on Pardeep. This was the first time a player had ever done that in 8 seasons of the league. It is Chiyaneh's first season.

In offence, meanwhile, Patna were reliable. But that's because they didn't have to be spectacular - their defensive prowess forcing errors time and again from their opponents. For a team that built its legacy, and three of its titles on the back of the superstar raiding juggernaut that is Pardeep, this was a massive shift. Ram Mehar Singh, Pirates coach and kabaddi genius, had pulled off what not many thought was possible.

Which is not to say it was a perfect display. In the middle of the second half, the Pirates eased up, complacency crept in and Yoddha went on a 9-0 run over five minutes that saw the Pirates get all-out for the first time (Yoddha had been all out thrice by then).

So Ram Mehar sent on Monu Goyat for the first time in the game. The first thing he did? A thigh-hold that brought a flying Pardeep crashing down - it was the tackle that killed the match. To add a level of surety, Goyat repeated the trick in the next raid, bringing down Shrikanth Jadhav, with an assist coming from the always ready Chiyaneh. After that it was smooth sailing for the Pirates as Yoddha crumbled.

The match had been billed as Pardeep vs the team that had built him. The team, though, relegated their estranged prodigal son to a non-story. Pardeep finished the game with 4 points, 3 of them a result of defensive errors. The Pirates' left and right corners had 5 and 6. A non-story.

Chiyaneh, and his defensive partners, though? The story of PKL 8. And now they'll have a chance to win their coach a fourth title in eight attempts.