In a historic game, where both teams were making their first appearance in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) final, Bengal Warriors showed fortitude and efficiency to win the title for the first time in their history. The star of the show was their makeshift captain Mohammad Nabibaksh who, in the absence of Maninder Singh, led from the front to secure victory.
The first half saw blistering, end-to-end action from both teams. It was Delhi who charged out of the blocks and established a 7-0 lead right at the begining. Both Naveen Kumar and Chandran Ranjit were getting raid points while Anil Kumar was looking deadly in defence. Warriors seemed like rabbit caught in the headlights.
As early as the 6th minute, an all-out was inflicted on the Bengal team. The score at that time was 11-3 and Delhi seemed on their way to the trophy. But the Warriors launched a fierce fightback, led by their captain Mohammad Nabibaksh. Thanks to his efficient raiding and equally impressive tackling from Jeeva Kumar, their team soon put Delhi in danger of an all out.
In the 15th minute of the first half, the all-out was inflicted and the score now read 15-14, Bengal trailing by just 1. At mid-point, the score was 17-all and it all seemed set for a thrilling second half.
However, Warriors had other ideas. Nabibaksh continued to cause havoc with his raids and even executed a great tackle to give his team a lead. What was hurting the cause of Delhi was the fact that except for Naveen, no other raider from their team was making an impact. After early success, Ranjit lost his touch and was getting easily tackled.
The defence of Delhi also seemed highly porous. Weak, unsuccessful tackles abounded. In the sixth minute of the second half, Bengal established a healthy lead by scoring the second all-out. Warriors now led 25-21. But situation was only getting tougher for the team representing the national capital.
Naveen was failing to continue his heavy scoring, though he did reach his 21st consecutive Super-10, his 22nd of the season. To make matters worse for Delhi, even Sukesh Hegde, the other key raider for Bengal, also started to come into form.
The third all-out was suffered by the Dabang team in the 12th minute and the score now was 34-24. After this, all hopes for Delhi rested on another superlative effort from Naveen. He did try and brought back semblance of a contest with some bonus-point earning and some touch-point earning raids towards the end.
But Delhi's defence never seemed capable of supporting. Naveen. He too, surprisingly, seemed content to get single points rather than going for a big multi-point raid. Bengal knew they had the game in the bag and only needed to play smart, which they did. Eventually, it was a comfortable win for Bengal with the scoreline 39-34.
Nabibaksh starred with 10 points while Jeeva did much more than earn the four points in his account. Naveen earned 18 points but they were not enough. The fact that the next most successful raider for Delhi had just 3 points tells you the story of the match. The weakness of Delhi's defence was such that Anil Kumar, their best defender, had just 2 tackle points.
In the end, it's a victory well deserved for Bengal Warriors. For Delhi, the season has seen them go from being perrennial underperformers to being title contenders. That should be some consolation.