What it takes to win matches in Pro Kabaddi
“Team with the Best Raider wins the tournament” - Till Pro Kabaddi Season 7 title was lifted by Bengal Warriors, this was the writing was on the wall. Then Bengal Warriors, finalists with their star raider and captain Maninder Singh injured, won Pro Kabaddi 7. The writing on the wall had evolved — A team with a good balance of fast, young players and a few motivated, experienced defenders had pulled off an upset in the PKL7 Finals.
That said, many Pro Kabaddi matches had rather unexpected outcomes. All 6 teams which made it play-offs took a different path to achieve the same outcome. So at Kabaddi Adda we did a deep dive into what it takes to win matches in Pro Kabaddi.
Keys to Winning Matches in Pro Kabaddi
Reason #1 : Superstar main raider
The top raider takes bulk of responsibility for scoring. And often does it at opportune moments - when the team is trailing or needs to quickly recover from an all-out. Key Elements to look for in your main raider include
- Scoring 10 points for the Main Raider is pretty much routine — Main raider like Pawan Sehrawat, Pardeep Narwal or Naveen Kumar scoring ten points in the match aids the team like nothing else. So this is a bare minimum requirement.
- Main Raider be in the Right Place at the Right Time — Often the main raider scoring 10 points is not sufficient. He needs to be on mat when the team is in trouble — so the next criterion for main raider is to be on mat for at least 70% of the raids. This is what Patna Pirates has sorely missed in PKL 6 and PKL 7 with defenders not being able to bring Pardeep Narwal back on mat.
- Main Raider is also Mr. Dependable — Teams which survive the season and make it to the final stages of the tournament often have a go-to-raider who can quickly score valuable points, often even bonus points when team is trailing. Young Naveen Kumar from Dabang Delhi was a master saviour for the team. Nabibaksh, winning captain for the finals from Bengal Warrior beautifully showcased it in the finals scoring 7 points when the team was trailing by 10!
Reason #2 : Performance in Do-or-Die Raids
Every third raid after two empty raids is a Do-or-Die Raid. This means the raider either scores or else goes to the bench. Teams with strong defenses like Haryana Steelers in PKL5 or U Mumba in PKL7 try to force oppositions into playing Do-or-Die raids. Simply put, this strategy intensifies the pressure on the raider to score. Under pressure things often go haywire.
- Teams with fewer Do-or-Die raids are often the healthier team in a match-up
- A Do-or-Die raid specialist is the answer many teams have resorted to — Rajesh Mondal for Patna Pirates in PKL4 or Shrikant Jadhav for UP Yoddhas. Success rate of the Do-or-Die raid specialist reflects the team success in Do-or-Die raids.
Reason #3 : Solid Support Raider
- Solid Support Raider - Often solely depending on main raider can be catastrophic, as Patna Pirates and Bengaluru Bulls found out in Pro Kabaddi 7. A support raider like Chandran Ranjith for Dabang Delhi or Vinay Kumar for Haryana Steelers is supremely valuable — the support raider bringing in a slow stream of points takes away the pressure off the main raider while keeping the score board ticking. In a match or two support raiders end up scoring the bulk of points reducing the load on the workhorse main raider.
Reason #4 : Corner Stone of the Defense are none other than the corners
Teams with fewer unsuccessful tackles, have their defense on mat for longer and are thus setup for win. The corner stone of a good defense is often the left corner and sometimes the right corner. The role of a corner defender is to initiate the tackle — the more often he tackles and more effective he is, the better it is.
- Air-tight Corners — On the other hand a weak defense is not one which doesn’t score tackle points but one which doesn’t leak points. If the corners have fewer than 5 unsuccessful tackles, it means the defense have not given easy points to opposition raiders.
- Corners stay on mat for the longest — By not giving easy points, corners stay on mat for much longer. Teams with at least one corner on the mat for more than 90% of the raids definitely holds the edge
- Corners with the strength to solo-tackle — In addition, if the corner also stops raiders and score points, nothing like it. Corners together need to score at least 5 successful tackles to create a solid impact.
Reason #5 : Pillars of the Defense - the covers
A corner defender scores the point, only if the cover defender can ably support him.
- Leaky covers are toxic — Covers need to have very few failed attempts, because often a failed tackle by the cover defender means a multi-point raid for the opposition. Both covers put together need to have fewer than 10 failed tackles. With Vikas Kale and Ravi Kumar allowing a stream of free points, Haryana Steelers lost its way in the business end of PKL7.
- Cover-corner combination — If the corner-cover combination fails, it spells doom for the team. Corner defenders need to initiate and covers need to support. Left corners need to be supported by the right cover and vice versa. On the other hand if the raider are attacking the cover, the corner needs to threaten or block escape routes for the raider. Here it is the combination between left corner and left cover and vice versa. Every time the combination has good communication and movement, the defense finds a comfort zone.
- Stalwart in the left corner — As the game of Kabaddi has evolved, most raiders prefer to come in from the right attacking the left corner. As a result, bulk of tackle points come from left corner. So a weakness in the left corner means the season is sealed and shut. This was case for Puneri Paltan with injury prone Girish Ernak in left corner. A weakness in the left corner also made it impossible for 3 team champions Patna Pirates to make it playoffs, with Jaideep playing like a school kid among giant raiders, leaking points relentlessly.
- Super tackles a sign of weakness — The team with more super tackles often go on to lose Kabaddi games. Reason is obvious, more super-tackle opportunities means the team has 4-5 of its players on the bench. And finding yourself in super-tackle situations too often is a sign of inherent weakness. In Pro Kabaddi 7, it was Jaipur Pink Panthers and Telugu Titans who found themselves in this spot often.
Reason #6 : ALL-OUT are like cavities in your teeth!
- Team to first all-out is always playing catch-up — The design of the sport Kabaddi is such that, losing points results in the team becoming weaker and weaker. Teams can find themselves down by 10 points, few minutes into the match. So it becomes important for the team to maintain momentum and going into first all-out often means losing the match. In a bizarre match in PKL5 Puneri Paltan raced to 10 point lead against Telugu Titans, thanks to an all-out. This was followed by another another all-out and Pune found themselves coasting at 20–0.
- Avoid All-Out at any cost with under 5’ left — No questions, Kabaddi is a game of momentum. So losing momentum in the last few minutes can cause immense damage to the morale and result in heart-breaking defeats. Jaipur faced a sore defeat losing a 7 point lead to Dabang Delhi, thanks to the last minute all-out.
So those are our ingredients in the recipe to win a match of Kabaddi in PKL. That said, to bring out the best in every player finally lies in the hands of the coaches.