Perfection is difficult to improve. Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors must perform this hard task if they are to outdo the other and win what would be the first-ever Pro Kabaddi title for either team.
After a long, hard season that saw Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors finish in the top two positions in the league table, they showed their collective might in semi-finals prevailing over Bengaluru Bulls and U Mumba respectively.
The statistics also testify their dominance. Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors are the top two teams in the division in terms of all-out inflicted on their opponents. The two teams also have conceded the lowest number of all-outs among all the teams.
The all-out metric reflects the team’s overall strength and it’s pretty evident from the numbers that Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors have all bases covered and are equally strong in attack and defence.
In their two encounters this season, Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors played out a 30-30 tie first time around, while Bengal Warriors ran out comfortable winners in the second game. However, the return clash was a late encounter in the league phase when both teams had already qualified for the semi-finals and wasn’t played with the same intensity.
Historically too, there has been nothing to choose between the two teams. On the 14 occasions Bengal have come up against Delhi, there have been six wins for each side with the other two encounters ending in ties.
Both teams boast a top-quality lead raider, a fine support raiding unit, lethal corners and experienced covers.
With so little between the two teams both statistically and in terms of player quality on paper, both coaches have their tasks cut out to work out an advantage for their respective sides.
As the coaches do their bit, here’s a look at the different aspects where this game can be won and lost.
The bonus-point battle
Bonus point is perhaps the easiest source of points as they can be won by crossing the bonus line and without much struggle. When the defence is on top, bonus points can help teams avoid pressure by keeping the scoreboard ticking.
In this metric, Dabang Delhi have the edge. They average 5.8 bonus points per game: that is the second-best tally in the league. Bengal Warriors have a poor record of restricting the bonus points and have conceded 5.4 bonus points per game, the second-worst tally in the division.
Bengal raiders too aren’t very good at picking up bonus points and rely more on touch points. So, the Warriors could feel the pressure of this discrepancy between the two sides in a game that is expected to be evenly-fought.
They could bridge the gap by playing Sukesh Hegde in the team who is very good at pinching the bonus points. He is a thinking raider and has the ability to quietly do a lot of damage.
Delhi defence vs Bengal attack
Delhi’s Naveen Kumar has been the find of this season when it comes to raiders but Bengal Warriors’ chief strength is their raiding department that not just has great depth but also a fine variety. They have a multi-point raider in Maninder Singh. They have a quality left raider in Sukesh Hegde.
Hegde and Prapanjan are excellent when there are six or seven defenders on the mat. In super tackle situations when the number of defenders is three or less, the Warriors have Maninder and Mohammad Nabibakhsh who have a great record with reduced numbers on the mat.
Even in reserve, Bengal Warriors have quality in the form of Sourabh Tanaji Patil and Rakesh Narwal who can come off the bench and make an impact.
There is plenty of experience in the Warriors’ ranks with three of their main raiders – Maninder, Hegde and Prapanjan – having played over 75 Pro Kabaddi games each.
However, Delhi’s defence match up on the experience front, with three of their main defenders having a combined experience of over 300 Pro Kabaddi games.
Another parameter where Delhi defence has been excellent is their ability to defend with five or four defenders on the mat. It is considered the toughest scenario to raid and the Delhi defence assumes peak powers in this scenario.
They have a tackle strike rate of 50 in these situations, a scenario where Bengal’s raid strike rate drops to 27. This ability explains why Delhi have been all-out the fewest times this season.
This is where Maninder Singh’s quality would be of prime importance to Bengal Warriors as his long reach and strength could come handy. The Kolkata side would hope their talisman is fit after missing the semi-final against U Mumba.
Bengal’s late show
Finals are about pressure and the pressure builds as the game approaches the full-time whistle. That’s where Dabang Delhi seem to come unstuck. Their defence has a tendency of dropping their guards in the final ten minutes of the match.
They have the lowest tackle strike-rate in the final ten minutes in the league. In a game like the final when the contest is likely to be decided in the last few exchanges, Delhi would need to work on this problem, especially against a team like Bengal Warriors that step it up in the final few minutes and have come out on top in several close finishes this season.
Maninder’s fitness doubt
Maninder Singh remains a doubt for the game after missing the semi-finals having dislocated his shoulder in the league game against Dabang Delhi.
Maninder, who has the fifth-most raid points to his name this season, has the ability to win matches on his own and will be a huge miss for any team.
However, if there is any side that can cope with the loss of their best raiders well, it’s the Bengal Warriors. In Hegde, Prapanjan and Nabibakhsh Bengal still have a formidable raiding unit.
In the three matches that Bengal have played without Maninder, they have averaged an impressive 23.5 raid points per game.
Incidentally, in the two matches against Dabang Delhi, Maninder Singh didn’t complete either. In the last game, he went off injured in the first half, while in their first battle, the Punjab raider was substituted after not having the desired impact.
The fact that Bengal didn’t lose those games would make them feel confident ahead of the final in case Maninder fails to make it.
Unstoppable Naveen Kumar
Naveen Kumar is Dabang Delhi’s X-factor and his consistency has helped him stand out. He has scored Super 10s in all games barring one, thus giving the Delhi’s defence some breathing space.
Bengal will be wary of Delhi’s star man as he has a better one-on-one record against their corners Rinku Narwal and Baldev Singh who form the heart of their defence.
The Warriors weakness has been the cover players (on either flanks in defence). Jeeva Kumar has had to shift from his preferred left cover position to the right cover, but that hasn’t made a great deal of difference. One possible solution would be to move all-rounder Nabibakhsh to the cover position if Maninder is fit to play.
The Iranian has a tackle strike rate of 47 and would help give Bengal defence more solidity which would be quite vital against someone like Naveen.
Naveen’s strength also lies in his ability to score well in do-or-die raids and also in a super tackle situations when the pressure on the raider is high. He has the best strike rate in both these situations in kabaddi and heading into a big final, Delhi would be encouraged by those numbers.
Chasing their maiden title after a series of lows in their initial years, it all comes down to this one game for Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors. After a near-perfect campaign, they seek crowning glory at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Saturday.