Ahmedabad, Oct 15 (IANS) The second semi-final of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) season will see Bengal Warriors take on U Mumba for a spot in the league’s final. All the Bengal players will be well rested and ready ahead of the clash after a weeks break between their last league stage match and the semi-final. U Mumba, though, will have positive momentum on their side after outdoing Haryana Steelers convincingly in Eliminator 2.
After an indifferent start to the campaign, Bengal Warriors managed an eight-match unbeaten streak which finally broke in their penultimate league stage match where they faced defeat against Patna Pirates. They managed to win their next match even in skipper Maninder Singh’s absence, but the earlier defeat meant that they had to settle for a second-place finish in the standings.
Maninder has led the Bengal attack from the front and registered his second straight 200-raid point campaign in the process. He has already recorded his best performance in a match this season with his 19-raid point showing against Jaipur Pink Panthers in Match 103. He also recorded the most Super 10s he has ever recorded in a single season (10) and equalled his record for the most Super Raids in a single season (6) while averaging more than 10 raid points per game.
Maninder has found strong support in K. Prapanjan, Mohammad Nabibakhsh and Sukesh Hegde this season. Thus, Bengal have three raiders, who have more than 75 raid points in the season, making them one of the most potent raiding units in the league.
Defender Baldev Singh is on the verge of reaching 100 overall points in the league history and could well get to the mark in this season itself. His average of 2.59 tackle points is already much better than his 1.33 tackle point average in season 6. Sitting second in the list of most High 5s in the season with 6, Baldev could prove to be a big threat to U Mumba’s raiding unit and will be eager to add to his 62 tackle points in the season.
Rinku Narwal sits just four tackle points shy of Baldev Singh, making Bengal one of only two teams with two defenders in the top 10 best defenders of the season so far. Jeeva Kumar’s big match experience, too, could prove important for Bengal as they chase their maiden PKL title.
On the other hand, U Mumba’s shaky start to the league stages gave way to a strong finish as they came into the play-offs on the back of a four-match unbeaten streak and managed to extend it to five with their win against Haryana Steelers in Eliminator 2. The team put in a convincing performance against Haryana, conceding just five tackle points while picking up 32 raid points to outplay Rakesh Kumar’s men in every department.
U Mumba’s leading raider this season — Abhishek Singh, shone in the second Eliminator as well, scoring 16 raid points to add to his 135 raid points before the match, bringing up a 150-point season. He averages 7.55 raid points per match with nine Super 10s and three Super Raids to his name.
Arjun Deshwal was the other bright spark for U Mumba in the Eliminator as the young raider scored 15 raid points to disable the Haryana defence. He was tackled just twice in the 18 raids he put in through the entire match which makes his performance even more remarkable.
U Mumba did not use Athul MS or young Ajinkya Kapre much, but they might get a look-in against Bengal if the primary two raiders fail to get going.
The current best defender of the season, skipper Fazel Atrachali was once again U Mumba’s most successful against Haryana as he scored three tackle points from four attempts with just a single unsuccessful tackle to his name. His 81 tackle points through 76 successful tackles at an average of 3.3 show just how dangerous he can be against any opponent.
Surinder Singh and Sandeep Narwal also managed two tackle points each against Haryana which showed the depth of the U Mumba defence. Another positive for the defensive unit was that every single defender, including Harendra Kumar, who came off the bench, scored at least a single tackle point.
This gives the team the flexibility to move the defence around if the need arises in the semi-final.