It was February 8, 2016. A Monday evening in Kolkata. Patna Pirates took on Telugu Titans, one of the most popular sides in Pro Kabaddi hailing from the south. The Pirates unleashed a sprightly, young raider that few knew much about. He scored 11 raid points to hand his side a 29-25 victory. An 18-year-old new kid on the block had scored his first-ever Super 10. Pardeep Narwal had made his first mark on the Pro Kabaddi stage.
It’s September 9, 2019. Another Monday evening in Kolkata. Patna Pirates are facing Tamil Thalaivas, another extremely popular team, hailing from the south. The Pirates emerge winners again. This time the victory is more comprehensive (51-25). Pardeep Narwal brings up his 52nd Super 10 and becomes the first man in Pro Kabaddi to register 1000 raid points.
In the 1309 days that separated the two events, Pardeep Narwal made the superlative look generic. His staggering numbers mean this isn’t hyperbole.
Pardeep has an overall average of 10.37 raid points per game in Pro Kabaddi. To put it in perspective, ten points in a game of kabaddi are considered equivalent to a century for a batsman in cricket, in terms of impact on the match.
Thus, just an average performance from Pardeep would give his team a solid platform to go on and win the game. It thus comes as little surprise that his team Patna Pirates won three straight Pro Kabaddi titles with him in the side.
What makes Pardeep’s average even more staggering is that he has maintained that over 99 matches. The next two raiders on the average raid points leaderboard (Siddharth Desai and Naveen Kumar) have played only 70 matches between them and no raider who has played over 70 games in Pro Kabaddi averages above 9.
Average Raid Points leaderboard (All-time)
|Player||Matches Played||Average Raid Points|
Pardeep rules the all-time leaderboards in Pro Kabaddi. Venture into the stats page on the official website and all you’ll see is Pardeep Narwal.
Pardeep Narwal has a not out percent of 77.17 in Pro Kabaddi. It means he is captured by the opponent defence only in 23% of his raids. The successful raid percent for Pardeep Narwal is 58.42. which means he scores points in more than half of his raids.
The Sonipat-born raider also has a habit of picking up points in a heap. Being a slightly unorthodox raider, with second-to-none escape skills, Pardeep has a reputation of wiping out most of the opposition in a single raid.
He holds the record for most points in a single raid (8) when he cleaned up six Haryana Steelers players in one go in a playoff game in season five. This game-changing ability is even further established by his super raid count (when a raider scores three or more points in one raid).
Pardeep has 45 super raids to his name in PKL history, the next two inline (Ajay Thakur and Rishank Devadiga) have a combined tally of 48, just three more than Pardeep alone. Thus, his game-changing ability is almost the cumulation of Thakur and Devadiga who have been great match-winners in their own right.
The aspect that stands him apart from the rest is the consistency of his impact. He is the only raider to score over 50 Super 10s in the competition and his current tally stands at 52. The next best is Rahul Chaudhari who has 39 super 10s to his name despite playing 16 more matches than Pardeep. The gulf in the numbers of the 22-year-old and the rest of the raiders in massive.
Top raiders in PKL (Super 10s, Super raids)
|Player||Super 10s||Super Raids|
|Deepak Niwas Hooda||27||20|
There are many examples in sport of players that excel in the bread-and-butter matches but fail to produce the goods in bigger games. Pardeep’s record in league matches is as good as anyone but his numbers in big, knockout matches are even better.
He has 139 points in 7 knockout matches at an average of 19.85 in Pro Kabaddi. Unsurprisingly, Patna Pirates have not lost a single knockout match since Pardeep joined the team. In his first knockout match with the Pirates, Pardeep had to be substituted due to an injury in the first half, but not before he had already pocketed a super 10. His numbers could have been even more impressive had he continued in that game and also played a part in the final.
There is no leaderboard for performances in knockout games, but if there was ever one, Pardeep Narwal would have been in his own league... again.
Technique, evolution, and temperament
Pardeep Narwal is a left raider (he attacks the right corner) which is a rare breed in itself. But unlike most raiders, footwork or hand reach aren’t his core strengths. He often targets the cover defenders with a sudden burst of speed and an unparalleled ability to turn or change direction.
His ability to turn and evade a challenge at lightning-quick speed gives him great escaping skills. Pardeep thus often draws a lot of touches. Thanks to his agility, he often gets an extra point on his way back to the midline.
After announcing himself on the Pro Kabaddi stage in season three, Pardeep drew a lot of attention from opposition teams. It barely had an impact on his figures as he was awarded the Most Valuable Player in season four when Patna were crowned champions again.
However, those around Pardeep sensed the young kid had another level to go. Indian kabaddi captain at the time, Anup Kumar urged Pardeep to add the bonus points to his game. Patna Pirates coach Ram Mehar Singh worked on that aspect and the Pardeep Narwal of season five was a different beast altogether.
He finished the season with 369 raid points, the record for a single season, 150 more than second-placed Rohit Kumar. He single-handedly took a fragile Patna Pirates side to their third straight title despite the team conceding the most points by any team that season. Limping into the playoffs, Pirates went all the way to beat an extremely strong Gujarat Fortunegiants side in the final, a win that can be solely put down to an evolved Pardeep Narwal.
Pardeep has said on many occasions that he plays on instincts. One of the main reasons for his success in his uncluttered mind. He still plays the game as he did in his backyard when he was a kid and it works best for him. There is no baggage. Bad game, poor form, reputed opposition, nothing plays on his mind when he goes to raid.
“Pardeep never succumbs to pressure. That is something not many players are capable of doing. He doesn’t dwell much on his off nights and puts the game behind him soon, which is what sets him apart from other raiders in the league. His ability to not feel the pressure is something else,” Patna Pirates coach Ram Mehar Singh said when asked about the reason behind Pardeep’s consistency over the last four seasons.
“Pardeep gives his all and tries to play well in every situation. Regardless of whether it’s working out for him or if the other team is ahead or if their defence is strong or not. It doesn’t matter to him,” he added.
Pardeep Narwal may have surrendered his top raider position to Pawan Sehrawat since last season, but that’s more down to the deficiencies of Patna Pirates squad. A leaky defence and lack of a support raider have meant, all the pressure to do the scoring is on Pardeep. Once tackled and sent to the bench, the Pirates have struggled to revive their star man.
This season, Pardeep has spent almost 25% of Pirates’ games on the bench waiting to be revived. Despite the team down in the bottom position and spending more time outside the mat, Pardeep is the third-best raider in the league with 158 points from 14 games at an average of 11.29.
His numbers may drown it out, but the Haryana raider is one of the most simple and honest players in the league. He is the first to admit if he hasn’t got a touch and is regularly seen doing so even when the raid is on. He rarely shows his aggression on the mat and over-the-top celebrations are not his thing. He is one nice guy that finishes first, time and again.
On the mat, Patna Pirates may be down and out this season, but Pardeep Narwal has shown that he won’t stop pushing perfection to its limits.