Wednesday's Pro Kabaddi action at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Mumbai saw a couple of contrasting matches take place, as table-topping Jaipur Pink Panthers continued their irrepressible march through the group stage with yet another dominant win, while hosts U Mumba were bested by a UP Yoddha side that looks to have finally found their feet after a couple of suspect performances.
In the first match of the evening, Haryana Steelers were handed a chastening defeat by the Panthers, who dealt out a 37-21 thrashing to the Rakesh Kumar-led side. Much of the attacking damage was done by Deepak Niwas Hooda, who tore through the Steelers defence at will, winning a total of 14 raid points, while the miserly Panthers defence was marshalled by Sandeep Dhull, who chipped in with six tackle points.
"I think Sandeep Dhull is the calibre of player that could wear the tri-colour on his chest and make the Indian team proud," said Panthers coach Srinivas Reddy, adding, "playing at left-corner is very difficult, but he’s one of the best on that list. He’s so young, and he’s so passionate and he’s very down to earth. He’s been getting better every year."
"Since we bought him from Telugu Titans in season 4, he’s been performing at this highest level with consistency. He and Deepak, who is our star raider and an incredible player, worked well together, and the rest of the team supported them well to pull off a very good team victory," said Reddy.
Reddy's counterpart Rakesh Kumar, who is currently in his first stint as head coach, stated that the game was close, despite what the margin would have one believe, as he rued a string of missed opportunities. "We had a game plan, we decided that we would try to do as many advanced tackles as possible, to nullify the threat of Deepak Niwas Hooda, but that didn’t work out for us tonight. After getting all out we were under a lot of pressure, because until that point, we could have won it, the game was still within reach. But a few small mistakes from some players, some mistimed tackles, and it was done," said Kumar.
"Sunil played well last season too, and he was given a chance today. He did well, the plan we had come with was successful to a certain extent. Playing Dharmaraj at left corner also helped, but there were some weak performances from the rest of the defence. If we had patience, we could have won, but in this sport, you make mistakes, and you have to learn from them," added the Haryana coach.
U Mumba's home leg hits a snag
U Mumba's home leg began on a positive note with a commanding win over rivals Puneri Paltan, but the last two matches have seen them lose by comparatively narrow margins of 26-30 and 23-27 to Bengaluru Bulls and UP Yoddha respectively, a trend that coach Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan is keen on setting right. "It's not like there's a lot of pressure on the defence, but maybe it isn’t working out as well as we would have expected it. Our raiders are doing their best. The league has just started, and as the day go by, we’ll get better. When we lose, there’s always some form of pressure, but we have a day off before the next match, so we should be back to our best," said the U Mumba coach.
Their defeat at the hands of UP was their third in the first five games of the season, and it came about thanks to an excellent team performance from the Yoddhas. Despite the match being neck-and-neck for much of its duration, a slightly fortuitous raid from former U Mumba player Rishank Devadiga proved to be the difference, as he forced Mumbai captain Fazel Atrachali to step outside the bounds of the mat and be eliminated with seconds remaining on the clock.
"In the last raid, I was thinking that there was just a minute and a half left, and it was our second raid at the time. We were only a couple of points ahead, and if I’d gone and gotten out, or come back empty-handed, it could have been a huge problem for us in our third raid. I waited 25 seconds, and then tried to do something. In that situation, even if I’d have gotten out, their raider would only have had five seconds to do something, which isn’t enough. It was in our favour that Fazel got out, that was obviously a just plus point for us," said the raider, explaining his decision to take a risk so late into the game.
Though his contribution to the victory lasted just a few seconds, Devadiga, who spent the first four seasons of Pro Kabaddi with U Mumba, will take heart from it, having picked up an injury right before the start of the season. "I feel great that I was able to come back from injury and play against U Mumba in Mumbai. It was unfortunate for me to get injured before the season began, because the team was settled. But I knew I had to play in Mumbai, and luckily my rehab went very well. It’s always a big moment for me when I play in Mumbai. I’ve been with UP for three years, but I still get a lot of support from the fans here, since I started from here," said Devadiga.
U Mumba will next take on Gujarat Fortunegiants on 2 August, in what will be their last home game of the group stage, while UP Yoddha will face Telugu Titans on the same day.
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Updated Date: Aug 01, 2019 08:55:40 IST