PKL: The image that defined the final - Shadloui's failed tackle, Vijay's brilliance

Mohammadreza Chiyaneh Shadloui's hands are far away from their intended destination -- the opponent’s thighs. His head’s turned away, he knows it’s gone. PKL

Dabang Delhi KC beat the Patna Pirates 37-36 to win PKL 8, the franchise's first ever triumph. The image we have posted above encapsulates everything that went wrong for the heavily-favoured Pirates and all the things Delhi got just right.

We attempt to break it down:

The failed tackle

Mohammadreza Chiyaneh Shadloui is the best defender in the league. It's his first season here, and he's already created a record, by becoming the first player in eight iterations to have 10 high-fives in a single season. In the semifinals, he made seven tackles and missed just one. There's an aura about him.

He's missed this one, though. Badly. You can see how far away his hands are from their intended destination -- the opponent's thighs. His head's turned away, he knows it's gone.

Through the game he would attempt seven tackles, missing five. For a player in the kind of form that he was in, that's a terrible strike rate. For a team where the defenders are the superstars, those failed tackles dealt exponential damage.

The helplessness

Look at the background.

Neeraj Kumar in the center looks like he's about to dive in, but there's too much mat between him and the action. He can do nothing about the disaster unfolding in front of him.

Shadloui had dived in for the tackle, frustrated by earlier attempts, fuelled by the youthful urge to stamp his authority on the game. Before this, and after it, his teammates -- opposite corner Sunil, the covers Neeraj and Sajin Chandrashekar -- would do just the same. The four of them had been the bedrock of the Pirates' unprecedented success, it was their coordination, their timing, their cohesion that had got them here. Advanced tackles had been a slight issue for the Pirates all season, but since the defensive unit had moved together, it hadn't mattered much. It had simply made for exciting, and successful, tackling.

In the final, though, they all seemed to miss a beat. Sajin went for three tackles, missed two. Sunil went for two, missed both. Neeraj went for four, missed all of them. They combined for three points all game. They had taken nine in the first half alone in the semi two days previously.

Which brings us to the tall figure standing by his lonesome. Looking on helplessly.

Guman Singh raided brilliantly in the final, winning nine raid points. His partner and the team's lead raider, Sachin, won 10. They had given the Pirates the lead in the first half, and kept them in it in the second. One of Sachin's points was a sensational solo tackle on Naveen Kumar. Then, in the 32nd minute coach Ram Mehar Singh substituted out Sachin. In the 33rd, he took off Guman. Those were the last substitutions he was allowed. With seven minutes of PKL final left, and his team trailing by three, his two lead raiders were out.

Easily the Pirates' best players on the night, Sachin and Guman spent the final moments of the final standing around in the subs dugout, hands on hips... helpless.

The dodge, the touch, the roll

Patna may have made the mistakes, but someone had to capitalise on them. Enter slightly left of centre, Vijay Malik.

Now, when you talk of Delhi, Vijay rarely enters the casual conversation. Understandable, given the sheer magic of Naveen Kumar.

In the final, with his knee tightly bandaged up, it was Naveen who set the tone, teasing the Pirates' defenders, getting in their heads, wearing them down, inviting silly mistake after silly mistake. Naveen went for 27 raids and got his habitual super 10, via winning 13 points. After the match, coach Krishan Kumar Hooda would sing the praises of his star player, and rightly so. Playing through injury, Naveen had propelled this team through this season.

But he didn't post the final's highest score. That was Vijay, with 14.

The mini-battle between Shadloui and Naveen raged on all game, and each got the better of the other twice. Vijay, though? Shadloui didn't come close to. Just as can be seen here, Vijay saw the Iranian come from a mile off -- a dodge, a quick touch and a roll to the line. Every single time. He wasn't tackled successfully once in 12 raids. Two super-raids at key intervals, one to keep Delhi in the game and the other to extend their lead in the final stages, and Vijay had won the game for Delhi.

Delhi's defence had been just as poor as the Pirates, their four experienced defenders Joginder Narwal, Sandeep Narwal, Manjeet Chillar, and Jeeva Kumar winning just three tackle points between them. What made the difference was Naveen's consistency and the crucial, underrated, brilliance of Vijay. A dodge, a touch, and a roll. Again and again till the PKL trophy was theirs.