One record after the other. One match after the other. Dabang Delhi KC are on a roll, and right now, even that might be a serious understatement.
In their match against the slowly-growing, vastly-improving team of Puneri Paltan on Sunday, Delhi won by a massive 20 points, with the score-line reading 60-40. It was a score-line that was previously unheard of in Season 7. Their final score tally broke the previous record of most points in a match this season, set by the Patna Pirates in a 55-33 win - again vs. Puneri - by five points.
The outcome ensured two things: Firstly, Delhi, a team that had never finished in the top three since the inception of the PKL would now definitely finish in the top-two - thereby assuring themselves of a direct entry into the semis. Secondly, Pune, a team that desperately needed a win in this match to have hopes of entering the playoffs, are now out of contention.
So what cost Pune?
It's not that Pune didn't play well. They scored 40 points - a tally that would have perhaps been good enough in any other match against any other team. Nitin Tomar was operating at full-throttle -- making super tackles as well as scoring quick raid points -- while Emad Sedaghatnia, Manjeet and Amit Kumar continued to lend support in the offence.
Their defence was solid owing to Balasaheb Jadhav. The extent of impact their defence has had this season can be seen through the stats - they have the most number of tackle points (232) as well as the highest average tackle point (11.6) tally this season. In fact, this was the first match that Pune lost this season after scoring 40 points. They had won the previous three times they crossed that mark. Then what went wrong? The answer lies in the opposition.
The fear of 'Naveen Express'
Such was Naveen's dominance - who has now completed 400 raid points in just two seasons - that Pune's strong defence fumbled and conceded points even before he could get touch points in his raids. In the 11th minute of the match, Sagar Krishna went out of bounds while defending against Naveen.
In the very next minute, the latter scored a super raid - a four-point effort - where all-rounder Sandeep, in a bizarre repeat of what had just happened, went out of bounds too, while keeping himself away from the 19-year old's reach to concede another free point. Naveen, then, quickly attained a touch point against Sushant Sail, who was still in shock about what had just transpired, to inflict an all-out.
What else led to Delhi's record score?
Delhi were unattainable from the word go. This is a Delhi outfit that has been different from any of their competitors. They did well last season too, entering the playoffs stage for the first time in the team's history, but this year, the standard of their game has been on an altogether different plane.
It wasn't only Naveen Kumar, the leading contender for the MVP of the season award, who was scoring. Every single member of the team was contributing. While Naveen scored a staggering 17th consecutive - and 18th overall -- Super 10 in just 19 matches this season, the experienced Chandran Ranjit scored a Super 10 too to recapture the form he showed earlier this season. Ravinder Pahal, the team's veteran right corner, scored a High 5 to add to Pune's woes. Vijay, the third raider of the team, also crossed 50 points this season during the course of the match, showing why this team has lost only two of their 19 matches this season.
Fearless Delhi go all in for all outs
Delhi's strategy was sound - they had an answer to everything. When Tomar was seemingly becoming dangerous with his defence, Naveen, who was raiding on the right side - his comfort zone, and co-incidentally also the area Tomar was manning - with thunderbolt-like speed, took care of Tomar by benching him at the most crucial times.
Moreover, whenever Naveen or Ranjit were getting tackled, the Delhi defence came into play, ousting the raider from the opposition in the very next minute to revive their key raiders. They simply did not let Pune breathe. No wonder the team managed to inflict not one, not two, but as many as four all-outs to kill the contest, if it ever was one.
With form as good as theirs at the moment, will Delhi finally go on to win the title? No one knows. But does every team fear them? That'll be a definite yes.