Pardeep Narwal: The world-class raider you know, the inner defender you don't
One of India's favourite kabaddi sons, Pardeep Narwal added yet another feather to his cap with a massive 27-point effort in Match 101 of the sixth season of the Pro Kabaddi League against the Puneri Paltan - an effort which made him the first man to score 800 raid points in PKL history.
The 'Dubki King' for a long time now, has been a force to reckon with and his gift to run through the opposition defence has popped up a question that has found a whole lot of answers, but none too convincing - Is Pardeep Narwal unstoppable?
The answers, which have all come at a time when Pardeep has been kept quiet have all been erased by some of his other herculean efforts. Yet, his journey to stardom has been quite the story.
A season with the Bengaluru Bulls at the beginning failed to bring him game time and it was fate that saw him getting a contract with the Patna Pirates.
A shy lad from Haryana, a state that is renowned for producing some of the best talents in the country, Pardeep slowly waded his way through the third season where he finished with 121 points from 16 games.
The fourth season produced the best of Pardeep at that time as he dived, pushed and blazed his way through to 133 points from 16 points which fetched him the 'Most Valuable Player' award. A confident Pardeep Narwal then shared an alliance with Ajay Thakur in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup in Ahmedabad as the former looked in fine form and finished as India's second-best raider in the competition.
Two seasons and two titles later, Pardeep Narwal ascended to the helm of affairs at the Patna Pirates which only boosted his confidence and brought the best out of the star raider as he finished with a whopping 369 raid points from 26 games, and smashed a plethora of records such as most points in a single game (34) and most points in a single raid (8).
At the beginning of the sixth season, the 21-year-old Pardeep was the cynosure of all eyes and the Patna skipper has not disappointed. Assuming the role of the lead raider, Pardeep Narwal smashed the record for most raid points, a record that was held by Rahul Chaudhari for a long time.
With the Patna Pirates enduring a season of mixed fortunes this season - with nine wins and seven losses from sixteen matches - Pardeep opens up about his emotions related to the landmark and his team's chances to make it to the playoffs.
"It feels really good to hold the record since now I have the most points in the league's history, it is an amazing feeling."
While excelling on a personal level, Pardeep's focus remains on the team and he is no stranger to the fact that a majority of the pressure is on him to lead his team into the playoffs and with that, go one step closer to defending the title.
"There is indeed a lot of pressure on us to perform since we have three titles to our name. We will try to win one match at a time and then concentrate on the playoffs stages. We will need to win the next two to three matches and that is our major area of focus."
For a man who has played Kabaddi all his life without shifting to any other sport, the game's technicalities and pre-requisites are known to him like the back of his hand. Yet, he traces back his roots and credits his success to his first coach back in his hometown.
While most Pardeep Narwal fans know him as one of the best raiders in the world, only a select few know that the 'Dubki King' has a super tackle to his name from the third season and is not just a mere raider but a capable defender as well.
"I was a good defender when I started playing the game. However, there were other defenders who were better than me and hence I started concentrating on just my raiding abilities."
Already one of the best in the world, Pardeep Narwal perfected the skill of pinching bonus points - a trait which was missing in his game until season 5 - which has added an all-round perspective to his raiding.
"Ahead of the previous season, the coach asked me to add another skill to my game apart from the dubki. It was his idea to add the skill of picking the bonus point to my style of play which is working well for me."
For a man who has ripped through the opposition without much fuss, Pardeep Narwal believes that it is important to understand the weaknesses of the opposition before going into the match, in order to procure more points in the game.
"We watch the previous matches of the team we are going to play against. Through the videos, we try and analyze the areas of scoring, which improves our chances to pick up more points in the match."
Such is the stature of the Patna Pirates skipper that he is single-handedly capable of picking a flurry of points and winning the game for his team. Yet, he credits the performance of his fellow raiders in Manjeet and Deepak Narwal, who he believes have contributed to his success.
"In our practice sessions, the players do well which translates into performances on the mat. Manjeet and Deepak Narwal have been in good form, which helps me to play with a lot more freedom and their role in supporting me is very important."
With high hopes pinned on him to take his team through the playoffs, Pardeep Narwal appears a confident man and sends out a wave of confidence through a heartfelt message for the upcoming youngsters as he says:
"Concentrate on your practice sessions where you can hone your skills and do not get distracted. Focus on what's best, your diet and skills and results will come".
Without a shadow of doubt, Pardeep Narwal occupies a premier position in the list of the best raiders in the world and has consistently provided unmatched entertainment on the mat. On which subject the question pops up.
Is he the best yet?