The Bengal Warriors bowed out of Pro Kabaddi Season 5 on Thursday after their loss at the hands of two-time defending champions Patna Pirates in the second Qualifier in Chennai. The Warriors were totally outclassed by the Gujarat Fortunegiants in Qualifier 1 and were similarly dominated in this one, the final score not reflecting what went on in the game.
It was a night on which the Warriors were on the back foot almost immediately as they managed to get themselves All Out in the third minute of the match, a blow from which they never recovered. Captain Surjeet Singh and co. were guilty of letting Pardeep Narwal off the hook after it looked like they had him. Pardeep managed to escape however and the result was a 5-point raid that wiped out the Warriors for an All Out.
"It was my mistake when I dived. I should have done better and held on to him. I allowed him to get away," a dejected Warriors captain, Surjeet Singh, said at the post-match press conference.
That devastating blow seemed to knock the wind out of the sails of a Warriors team already short on confidence. Coach Jagdish Kumble too believed that they let the match get away too early.
"The match went into their hands at the very beginning. As Surjeet said, had that 5-point raid not happened, things could have been different. Today, both our raiders and our defence were contributing points. The team also fought well as you saw until the end. It was just the opening few minutes where we played badly that cost us the match," Kumble said.
Pardeep Narwal continued his rip-roaring form, scoring 23 points from 36 raid attempts in the game. Kumble said that with other raiders small mistakes go unpunished, but not against Pardeep.
"It's Pardeep, so we have to think with all our tackles. As you know, he is very good at escaping and till the last second, we have to be alert. Today, we didn't do that. We let him get away a couple of times. Small moments, here and there, which made a big difference in the end," the Warriors coach said.
Captain Surjeet refuted claims that his side had not prepared well enough for Pardeep. "No, we did our homework but it's not easy to catch Pardeep," said Surjeet.
Coach Kumble also backed up his captain, saying, "There was no support for some of Surjeet's tackles. With other raiders, sometimes a solo tackle is enough, but not against Pardeep. It was not because of a lack of preparation," he exclaimed.
Despite suffering three All Outs, the Warriors hung on gamely. At one point, in fact, in the first minute of the second half, after being reduced to just one man, defender Shrikant Tewthia went in to raid and picked up a Bonus plus two points to stave off an All Out. It looked like a potential turning point with the score still manageable at 15-22. However, some more ineffectual defending meant that opportunity frittered away as they ended up getting All Out soon after.
"We got the opportunity, but we lost 2 points soon and then we gave them an All Out. I feel we didn't make use of such opportunities in this match," Kumble added.
The Warriors hadn't lost to the Pirates in their three meetings in the league stage, so it was indeed a crushing blow. After the 42-17 thrashing at the hands of the Gujarat Fortunegiants in Qualifier 1, it was another disappointing night for the Warriors after what was a very good season.
Asked if there was any disappointment about the way their season came to an end, especially the manner of the losses, Surjeet said, "Yes, we are a little disappointed. The match against Gujarat was very one-sided, we didn't do anything right. So here, we wanted to come back, but we couldn't. But that's how the game is, it can be very up and down."
"We had injuries to key players in defence and raiders towards the end. So that did affect our chances. I was happy though with the way the team fought right till the end and I believe that we would have even won had there been more than two minutes left in the match when we started our comeback," Surjeet lamented.
Maninder Singh, their lead raider, finished with 17 points and was one of the prime propellers behind the Warriors' late surge. Maninder made his return in Season 5 after last featuring in Season 1.
When asked how happy he was with the season, he revealed that he was "very happy", but disappointed at exiting the tournament before the final.
Maninder said, "This year we had a very good team, one of the best I feel in the competition. I enjoyed playing for this team. I thought we had a chance, but unfortunately, we are not going to win the trophy."