At the start of October in the Pro Kabaddi 2019 season, Pawan Sehrawat had accumulated a staggering 39 raid points in Bengaluru Bulls' win over Haryana Steelers. He thus broke Pardeep Narwal's four year old record for most raid points in a single game. It also booked their place in the playoffs.
On Monday, he couldn't replicate that high-scoring success against UP Yoddha but he produced a mind-boggling level of kabaddi to steer his side into the semi-final. His 20 points, with Bengaluru playing catch up for a lion's portion of the game, ensured a 48-45 win. It was the first instance of extra time in seven seasons of the Pro Kabaddi league.
Bengaluru trailed UP Yoddha by as many as 11 points at one stage in the match and looked down and out from the first Eliminator. But Sehrawat was boosted by the crowd's volume and found mental support from coach Randhir Singh and teammate Rohit Kumar who came on as a substitute. Kumar, who had been out injured for five matches, contributed with just three points but as Sehrawat admitted later, he was crucial in egging his fellow raider on.
"My confidence level was completely down. I was getting tackled multiple times. So even though I was feeling low, coach sir kept reminding me that you will make the difference and you will get the win. Rohit also motivated me and told me that even if I was getting tackled, I need to forget that. I would like to credit the coach and Rohit for this performance," Sehrawat said after the win.
"I was so down that I kept saying 'coach saab match haar gaye! match haar hi gaye hain' [we've lost, we've already lost]. Rohit kept reminding me that nothing is lost. This gap is only nine or ten points. We've comeback from much bigger margins. And it is true - last season we drew back from 16 or 17 points down. It didn't help that my ankle was hurting as well," he added.
Bengaluru played catch up from the word go and couldn't take the lead until the second half with three minutes left on the clock. That is when Pawan stitched a two point raid to put the defending champions 36-34 in the clear.
The journey to that point in the match was riddled with hard work, nerves and instances where Sehrawat had given up. He admitted that he was downbeat throughout.
Away from Pawan's dominance at the packed EKA Arena in Ahmedabad, UP Yoddha had contribution from multiple sources. Rishank Devadiga was their top raider with 11 points; Nitesh Kumar and Sumit emerged as the top defenders with five tackle points each. Shrikant Jadhav collected nine points to take his tally in the season past 150 points. But, it all came to nought.
With game slipping away from their grasp, Sehrawat got the comeback job underway with a massive raid to reduce the deficit to four points at 15-19 in the first half. He got one touch and went for the other defender as well in trying to accumulate as many points. But this fishing attempt almost resulted in an unsuccessful raid but for the Bulls skipper's perseverance to keep going, keep battling and as soon as he touched the midline, he fell flat in exhaustion. The crowd, however, was on hand to go nuts and push Sehrawat to keep going.
In the second half, Bengaluru once again continued to play catch up and cut the gap to just one before UP Yoddha pulled away again. Monu Goyat's raid and tackle combination in succession coupled with Rishank's successful raid and Nitesh's super tackle allowed Yoddha to go 31-25 ahead.
With four minutes to go into the game, Bengaluru trailed 28-34 and a timeout was called. Sehrawat got the proceedings underway with a diving raid for a Super 10 and an All Out to make it 33-34. On the next piece of action, Saurabh Nandal tackled Shrikant to bring parity at 34-34.
With nothing separating the two sides at 36-36 and 40 minutes of regulation time, the teams headed to extra time. The first instance of time added on saw six minutes of action where two halves were played of three minutes each. The rules further stipulated that in case of a no winner after the extra time as well, the game would be decided on golden raids. If there was no decision after that as well, the winner would have been decided by, surprisingly, a coin toss. Albeit it didn't come to that - much to everyone's relief for this was dramatic enough.
If the first 40 minutes were not enthralling enough, the extra time was equally edge-of-the-seat-stuff. In the first part of extra time, UP Yoddha drew first blood with Rishank's successful raid and Sumit's equally smart tackle. But Bulls recovered to make 38-39 at the change of ends.
"During the minute's break in extra time, I told him to attack the left corner. I was noticing that the player was not patient in defence and was likely to make a mistake and you will win a point there," said Bengaluru coach Randhir Singh on the pep talk during the extra time.
Trailing by 39-40, Sehrawat achieved what was arguably the biggest raid of the match and the season. He popped into the UP half and in his confident manner, came back with a Super Raid with Sumit, Nitesh, Devadiga and Amit his victims. To make it doubly interesting, UP players reviewed and reckoned the raid was worth two points. However, the decision stood and saw Bengaluru go 43-40 up. Devadiga later acknowledged this was the difference maker.
Goyat's successful raid earned a bonus point and UP were still trying to remain in it with one point. But those hopes were dashed within seconds by Sehrawat's Super Raid to inflict an All Out. This put Bengaluru 47-42 with the clock winding down and soon enough, Bulls were in delirious mode and none more than coach Randhir. Players picked him up in their arms and carried him around making it look like they'd won the title. The job is far from over but after the dramatics of it all, Bengaluru had reason to believe once again.
"This match wasn't about the 46 minutes we spent out there. It was a 48 hour match - we've been working day and night in preparation for this match. I've seen Sehrawat this down for the first time. I reminded him that you're a tiger and you will remain one. I reminded him that Bengaluru are known for their late comebacks. I just know that there's been no match like this and I hope there isn't one either!" said Randhir on the nervous win.
Radhir's counterpart Jasveer Singh was downbeat after the loss. "This was a good match to watch but not for us. We made multiple mistakes and didn't get better defensively. There are some young boys and they couldn't hold the nerves in crunch situations and that was the difference in the end."
For Bulls, next challenge comes in the form of table toppers Dabang Delhi in the first semifinal. The other semi-final will pit Bengal Warriors against U Mumba after the latter were comfortable 46-38 winners over Haryana Steelers.
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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2019 09:15:02 IST