The kabaddi caravan was set in motion in Hyderabad two weeks ago, but it was in its second leg in Nagpur that the tournament picked up momentum. The matches became closer, star performers got into their groove, some big guns were humbled, while underdogs made a point or two.
If there were question marks about the new format of the Pro Kabaddi League, the Nagpur leg might have answered a few. The Bengaluru Bulls didn't quite warm up to Mankapur Indoor stadium – their adopted home, as they could only manage two wins from six games, but bettered Telugu Titans' show on their home patch.
For many high-flying teams like Puneri Paltan, UP Yoddha and Bengal Warriors, the Nagpur stanza was a mixed bag as they won one and lost the other. However, that bode well for the competition as it kept all teams in close vicinity of each other on the points charts.
As the action prepares to move to Ahmedabad, here's a look at the takeaways from the Nagpur leg.
Bengaluru Bulls frustrated as Rohit Kumar struggles for support
The Bengaluru Bulls didn't have the best of times in Nagpur, as they picked up just 15 points of a possible 30 in their home leg. After recording an impressive win over Telugu Titans in Hyderabad, the Bulls couldn't quite maintain the level of performance that got their campaign off to a winning start. They were found too dependent on captain Rohit Kumar to do bulk of the work, and a lack of support for the skipper meant they were often scampering for points.
The fact that they won two matches and tied one, was largely down to Rohit's heroics. He scored five and more points in each of the six games and at times carried the team all on his own. He scored 11, 11, 8, 5, 6 and 12 points in those matches. But glaringly for the Bulls, they lost two out of the three matches in which Rohit scored over ten points. Apart from Ajay Kumar's scores of 6 and 8 against Patna Pirates and Bengal Warriors respectively, the captain didn't enjoy great deal of support in the raiding department. The defence was specially poor as apart from two high fives from Mahender Singh and Ashish Kumar in the first match, the defenders couldn't rack up points to ensure Rohit's efforts don't go in vain.
After a disappointing home leg, Randhir Singh's young brigade have plenty of work to do if they are to reach the play-offs. While the Bulls will hope their captain maintains his form, the greater need is of a support cast that can turn his valiant efforts into match-winning ones
Prolific Pardeep Narwal makes Patna Pirates peerless
The Nagpur leg can be seen as a great leveler. Six teams came into the Orange City with their unbeaten record intact, but only one left with that record still being the case. Defending champions Patna Pirates have that honour and that is largely down to one man. Pardeep Narwal. Commentators, journalists and experts have run out of adjectives to describe his performances and yet he finds a way to keep getting better.
Coming into the match against the high-flying Bengaluru Bulls, Narwal had 27 points from two games. The Bulls defence although vulnerable, was a clear upgrade on the Telugu Titans who the Pirates had thrashed twice in Hyderabad. As things panned out, it barely mattered for Narwal who racked up another 15 points in the match to give Patna Pirates a big 46-32 victory. Unlike Rohit, Narwal enjoyed support of fellow raiders Monu Goyat and Vinod Kumar who scored seven points each, but it was the young Narwal who wrecked discipline and order in the Bulls' defence with his aggressive raiding skills.
The 20-year-old averages 14 points per game this season, and he like his team is peerless at the moment.
Steelers, Thalaivas win to throw competition wide open
Haryana Steelers, Tamil Thalaivas and Jaipur Pink Panthers were still without a win when they came into Nagpur. Facing in-form opponents few gave them a chance to get to do so, but there was to be a twist in the script, as all these three sides recorded crucial wins. Haryana Steelers, who tied their first match against Gujarat Fortunegiants, found a way to get the better of their fellow newcomers this time out. Their star corner pairing of Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar proved why they are considered the best in the business as the duo scored 13 points in total to puncture Gujarat's raiding department.
The Tamil Thalaivas had to wait till the final day of the leg to claim their first victory, but when it came, it was quite satisfying. Boosted by their comeback that almost gave them a win against the Bulls in the first game, the Thalaivas made no mistake in getting the better of the hosts in their second go. Raiders K Prapanjan and Dong Geon Lee scored 10 raid points between them, while Amit Hooda registered four vital tackle points.
The Jaipur Pink Panthers entered the tournaments as one of the favourites, but were shocked by Dabang Delhi in the first match. Up against the Puneri Paltan, who had been almost flawless to that point, the Panthers produced a special performance to get off the mark. Captain Manjeet Chhillar came into his own with nine points and was well-supported by veteran raider Jasvir Singh, who brought all his experience into play to slow the game down in the second half, when Pune were plotting a comeback.
The wins for this trio, especially newcomers Steelers and Thalaivas, completely opens up the competition. It's starting to become a season where any team can beat any other team, and that's good news for the fans.
Young guns enhance reputation
While Hyderabad leg introduced new stars to the kabaddi world, the Nagpur leg has helped enhance their reputation. The likes of Sachin of Gujarat Fortunegiants, Vikas Khandola of Haryana Steelers, K Prapanjan from Tamil Thalaivas had made a mark in Hyderabad, but after events in Nagpur, it appears that these young guns are here to stay.
Even as Gujarat came unstuck against the Steelers, coach Manpreet Singh would have been particularly proud of Sachin's performance. The young raider who has developed a knack of picking up points in do-or-die raids picked up eight points in the match and finished as the top scorer in the game despite being on the losing side. This is the third straight game, where the captain of the junior Indian kabaddi team has played a big hand. As coach Manpreet said after the game, there's more to come from Sachin.
While Sachin waged a lone battle for Gujarat, Vikas Khandola was proving to be the cutting edge that the Steelers needed to get their first win. The youngsters, who according to Steelers' coach will be the best all-rounder in Indian kabaddi for years to come scored six points to help his side end Gujarat's unbeaten run.
K Prapanjan, who was expected to be Ajay Thakur's understudy in the Tamil Thalaivas outfit, has assumed a far larger role. After a 7-point haul in the opening game against Telugu Titans, Prapanjan returned with two 6-point hauls in the couple of matches the Thalaivas played in Nagpur. While the first two performances went in vain, his last one gave him and his side the first taste of victory in the league.
With their reputations enhanced, these youngsters will now have to perform with the weight of expectations. Therein lies their true test of character.
Published Date: Aug 11, 2017 06:04 pm | Updated Date: Aug 11, 2017 06:04 pm