A memorable homecoming for The Eagles - Home-leg analysis of Dabang Delhi

 

The 2018 edition of the Pro Kabaddi League has been glittered with some fabulous moments of top-flight kabaddi from the twelve teams in the fray in the lead ahead of the playoffs. Yet, the spotlight has belonged to one team, that has exceeded all expectations to record the best ever home leg result this season with five wins in six games - That team is Dabang Delhi.

Surprised? Well, join the club.

For the whole of the Pro Kabaddi League's history, Delhi has been one team that has failed to produce results in their favor, time and time again failing to stitch together individual performances to rake up wins.

A team which has boasted of a wide array of superstars in the form of Kashiling Adake, Ravinder Pahal amongst others had somehow, with spell-binding consistently found themselves at the bottom of the pile. The 2014 season saw the Dabangs win only five of their 14 matches while the next season, their performance dipped as they finished with just four wins from 14 games.

The third season was the worst for Delhi, finishing rock-bottom with just a solitary win from 14 games. The following season, Delhi finished second-last, but only thanks to some fine raiding from Kashiling Adake and Meraj Sheykh while Sachin Shingade was in fine form in the cover region.
In the previous season, Meraj Sheykh was thrust to the role of the captain but the Iranian failed to lead his team anywhere, as Delhi yet again found themselves at the bottom of the pile, with five wins from 22 games.

Starting on a clean slate - An approach that has reaped results

Ahead of the seasons six auctions, Dabang Delhi needed something far from the ordinary. 'The Eagles', as the Dabangs are referred to, retained their skipper from the previous season in Meraj Sheykh and in the auctions, it was only a matter of building the core around the Iranian.

In Joginder Narwal and Vishal Mane, the team was already brimming with experience and the addition of Ravinder Pahal in the final segment of the auction added a lot more might to the unit.
Delhi's only massive purchase was Chandran Ranjith, whose services were procured for a sum of ₹61.25 lakh while old warhorse Shabeer Bapu joined the Delhi forces as well.

With the team well formed, Delhi added some more exciting young stars in the team, to play the role of supporting raiders and defenders.

The season in a nutshell

The Dabangs started off with a draw against Gujarat in a game that saw their most expensive buy in Chandran Ranjith scoring nine raid points against his ex-team.

Two wins sandwiched by a loss followed but soon enough, the losses seemed to hit the Dabangs hard as they lost their next three games in a row. Ahead of their home leg at the Thyagaraj Sports Complex in Delhi, skipper Joginder Narwal emphasized on the fact that Delhi needed to put up a spirited performance to make a mark. It seemed like Joginder Narwal had a career alternative - Being a Clairvoyant.

A memorable homecoming for The Eagles

The first home game for Delhi was against the Jaipur Pink Panthers which the hosts won by a convincing 48-35 margin, led by Meraj Sheykh's 15-point outburst and Ravinder Pahal's High-5.
In the next game against U Mumba, the hosts looked a tad patchy and barring young Naveen Kumar's 12 point effort, none of the others could step up which meant that the visitors collected a fine win.

Going by history, any kabaddi fan would have thought that the same story was set to repeat. Dabang Delhi, a team with possibly the worst home record, was bound to fail. Yet, this was a fresh season and a formidable team bundled with experience.

Puneri Paltan came next and went back empty-handed as the defense and raiding units combined spectacularly. A confident Telugu Titans setup arrived on the scene but were no match to the might of Vishal Mane, who finished with six tackle points.

With three wins from four games, the hosts welcomed the Bengaluru Bulls and held on to their 14-10 lead in the first half to cling on by the skin of their teeth and record a 32-31 win, orchestrated by a top show from Chandran Ranjith.

The last match was hence, deemed decisive. Delhi had equalled the record for the best home leg this season with four wins with U Mumba and Gujarat Fortunegiants. Yet, the Dabangs still had one match in hand, against the Tamil Thalaivas. If they were to win, they would be the first team to win five home matches this season.

Right from the get-go, the Joginder Narwal-led side appeared like a pack of hungry lions, who in the end got the better of the opponents by a 37-33 margin in a game where Vishal Mane was yet again the hero with a 'High-5'.

The celebrations began and did not stop all even after the presentation ceremony. The thousands of fans who had turned up were treated to a spectacle, one that they had never witnessed nor expected. It was something drifting completely away from the ordinary. The whole team clicked as a unit. Safe to say – For the first time in six seasons.

Vishal Mane was the pick of the defenders and his dashes was a nightmare for the opposition raiders. Ravinder Pahal and Joginder Narwal’s eye-eye approach yielded some top results as the veterans complemented each other move for move and made raiding look a difficult prospect.

Meraj Sheykh’s retention seemed to be worth gold dust, with the Iranian leading the raiding unit with 90 points in five matches – Almost a Super-10 in each game. Young Naveen Kumar, an unknown entity ahead of this season was also in top form with 80 points from six games while Chandran Ranjith chipped in with crucial points.

Dabang Delhi became the first team to notch up five home leg wins and for once in the history of the league, looked like the team to beat at the end of their home leg. A feat, which they had never achieved in the whole of the tournament – let alone their home leg.