Led by an all-round display by stand-in captain Mohammad Nabibakhsh, Bengal Warriors produced a complete display to defeat Dabang Delhi and become champions of Pro Kabaddi season seven in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
The Iranian came up with crucial raid points (nine of them) and one tackle point as Warriors, despite the absence of talisman Maninder Singh, overcame a slow start to defeat Delhi and lift their first title.
Naveen Kumar’s individual brilliance was overshadowed by a poor defensive display by Dabang Delhi. The 20-year-old raider produced 18 raid points on the night, registering his 21st successive Super 10 of the tournament, extending a stunning streak of consistency.
But, despite starting the night with the first all-out, Delhi never really troubled Warriors. The side from Kolkata were deserving champions courtesy of their exemplary raiding display.
It initially seemed like the pressure of the final got to Warriors in the early minutes as Delhi stormed to a 6-0 lead. Naveen Kumar certainly looked charged up for the event while Delhi’s cover combination of Anil Kumar and Vishal Mane also
seemed keen to stop any raider coming their way. But it would turn out to be fleeting.
The Delhi side clinched their all-out in the 8th minute to open a four-point lead but the Warriors were a different side after the restart. Stand-in skipper Nabibakhsh picked up his game, clinching valuable raid points, as Bengal quickly reduced Delhi’s lead. Warriors soon secured their first all-out with under 4 minutes remaining for the break. The closely-contested first-half ended with the scores leveled at 17-17.
Bengal maintained that momentum in the second half as they quickly got into the lead. Sukesh Hegde once again sizzled for the Warriors with some mature raiding, often getting the better of Ravinder Pahal in Delhi’s left corner. Perhaps the smartest ploy from the Bengal camp was to deploy the experienced Jeeva Kumar in a shifting cover role, depending on the raider’s strong foot. The decision helped as Bengal clinched another all-out in the 8th minute of the half to open-up a 4-point lead.
Naveen, who was out of action for seven minutes out of 20 in the first half, clinched his Super 10 in the 10th minute (21st consecutive) but Delhi struggled to get a stranglehold of the match with Bengal’s corner combination of Rinku Narwal and
Baldev Singh also getting into the game. Bengal inflicted another all-out with 6 minutes remaining to open-up a 10-point lead.
Naveen kept trying to script a comeback for the Delhi side, hitting hitting the 300-point milestone in the process, but his work continuously got undone by uncharacteristic errors in the defence with the likes of Joginder Narwal and Ravinder Pahal struggling. The Warriors’ defence held tight in the final minutes to secure their first title and cap off a consistent campaign in style.
Naveen was declared Most Valuable Player of the tournament, while U Mumba’s Fazel Atrachali and Bengaluru Bull’s Pawan Sehrawat picked up the best defender and raider awards.