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Pardeep Narwal - A season of comebacks and close misses for PKL's record-breaker

There had been doubts if PKL superstar Pardeep Narwal could ever rediscover his old form. While those questions were answered with interest this season, there was heartbreak in store for UP Yoddhas in the playoffs.

Pardeep Narwal - A season of comebacks and close misses for PKLs record-breaker

Pardeep Narwal in action for the UP Yoddhas (PritishRaj/TheBridge)


Pritish Raj

Updated: 15 Dec 2022 7:36 PM GMT

Sports are about fine margins; in contact sports, the margin can be just one inch.

In the second eliminator of Pro Kabaddi League season 9 on Tuesday, U.P. Yoddhas lost to Tamil Thalaivas in one of the closest games in PKL history through a tie-breaker.

This was the first time Tamil Thalaivas reached the semi-finals. While the Thalaivas team was celebrating and acknowledging their supporters, a distraught Pardeep Narwal trudged back slowly into the shadows, knowing that his squad - U.P. Yoddhas - had again messed up after qualifying for playoffs.

The best raider in the history of the PKL and a three-time champion, Pardeep Narwal, switched from Patna Pirates last season after U.P. Yoddhas bought him in the auction. The move fell flat when Pardeep couldn't perform up to his high standards and his team faltered in the playoffs. Questions were raised if Pardeep could ever rediscover his vintage form.

"A lot of things changed for me as the team changed, coaches changed and the style of playing Kabaddi changed with the change of teams. It was a little difficult in the beginning for me but eventually, things started falling into place," Pardeep told The Bridge about his difficulties from his first season with the Yoddhas.

However, this season, Pardeep regained his mojo, scoring 220 points in 23 matches as his team sailed through to the playoffs - only to falter in the Eliminator.

"I have worked on my fitness massively. Fitness defines everything in a sport like Kabaddi. I lost some weight, which helped me as it increased my speed and agility, which is crucial for a raider," the star raider said about his return to form.

Being a contact sport, Kabaddi players are highly cautious of their diet and teams have specialists to take care of this aspect.

"Bhai khane hi nahi dete, 20-25 din roti khaye huye ho gaye (They are not letting me eat roti for 20-25 days)," Pardeep said with a wry chuckle. "I have a diet to follow as mentioned by the nutritionist and I try to stick to that despite all the temptations," he added.

Coming from Haryana, where sweets and dairy products are a major part of the meal, Pardeep has cut down on his sugar intake and given up on his favourite sweet to remain fit.

"Meetha toh bhul jao, meri favourite kalakand mahino se nahi khayi hai maine (forget other sweets, I haven't touched my favourite sweet kalakand for months)," Pardeep said with a booming laugh.

After Anup Kumar and Rahul Choudhary, it had been Pardeep Narwal who had emerged as the new poster boy of Indian Kabaddi, showcasing thrilling moves such as the 'dubki'.

Explaining his signature move, Pardeep said, "I think people have done it before but with me doing it regularly, it got a name and is popular now. Dubki is for fast-paced raids when a chain (of defenders) comes at you and you just go beneath them. I have been slow in a few raids this season and I got caught."

Not only for his moves, Pardeep had also gained a reputation for his sheer brilliance in dragging his team to trophies. Patna Pirates' last title win had his name written all over it as he won them matches single-handedly.

"People support me everywhere. Wherever I go, people ask me for selfies and autographs. They know who I am and what I do," the record-breaker expressed his gratitude towards the fans.

"There was a time in 2014 when I saw PKL for the first time, I thought I would play here on TV. Coming from a village, this is huge for me, and I always cherish the love people bestow on me," Pardeep concluded with a smile.

Season 9 started slowly for Pardeep Narwal, but it was against Dabang Delhi in the 83rd match when Pardeep showed flashes of himself, scoring 22 points in a game.

There was no stopping him after that as he guided the team to another playoff and kept scoring bulk points crossing the 200 points barrier and breaking multiple records.

"I don't know how it happened. I have never been tackled near the baulk line and this is the first time something like that happened to me," a distraught Pardeep said about the tackle which won Tamil Thalaivas the game in the playoffs.

A sense of disappointment and anger at missing out on that crucial raid - which put an end to the show of India's finest kabaddi exponent of current times for the season - was visible as Pardeep trudged towards his teammates for one last time in PKL Season 9.

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