When players from U Mumba and Haryana Steelers step up on the mat at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad for the second eliminator in the playoffs of Pro Kabaddi 2019, they would do so knowing there is no real dominant side coming into it. Neither side has been all that convincing but getting to the playoffs is half the battle won. The other battle begins now where they play an eliminator, a possible semi-final and then a final to stand a chance of winning the silverware. And that impressive Rs 3 crore prize money.
There's little to separate Mumbai and Haryana basis their showing in the league stage. Mumbai had 12 wins, 8 losses and two ties for 72 points while Haryana posted 13 wins, eight losses and one tie to finish just a point and place behind. Their fourth and fifth place finishes mean they will go through an extra step of playing an eliminator and then a semi-final before booking a place in the title decider.
“During the league stage, if we lose one match, we know we have a chance to go back and work on our mistakes to improve. Tomorrow’s match is a do-or-die situation, if we lose, our season is over and we go back home. Haryana is a strong team and they too will come with a plan to limit us but as a team we are confident and are taking one step at a time. We will give our 100 percent and aim to win the match,” said U Mumba captain Fazel Atrachali on the eve of the playoffs.
Abhishek Singh is the one to watch out for in the U Mumba camp for his impressive raiding ability. Having started slowly, with an average of just 5.9 raid points after the first 10 games, he has improved leaps and bounds. In the second half of the season, he has accumulated 76 points, averaged close to 8.4 raid points per game with six Super 10s from nine matches. He is currently the highest raid points collector for U Mumba with 135 points from 19 matches. The next raider from U Mumba on the list is Arjun Deshwal — a good 50 points behind Singh.
With Abhishek leading the lines in offence, skipper Atrachali has been an absolute rock in defence. The Iranian leads the defensive numbers with 73 successful tackles, 78 tackle points, averages 3.55 on tackle points and has four High 5s. To further highlight his consistency and focus, he has a strike rate of 61 percent among defenders this season.
Mumbai have been plagued by inconsistencies this season. They've picked up only two wins over their fellow playoff rivals (from 10 played). Thereafter, their defence has been poor on occasion. Sandeep Narwal and Surinder Singh have together contributed zero tackle points in nine matches this season for a miserable status. Their problems are compounded by an equally disappointing left cover unit. Harendra Kumar and Young Chang Ko have had a steep 70 percent failed tackle rate.
Shifting focus to the Steelers. Alongside UP Yoddha and Gujarat Fortunegiants, Steelers have been the most prolific in attack and have shared responsibility when doing so. Haryana have 460 raid points this season which has been shared between Vikash Kandola (178 points), Vinay (116 points), Prashanth Kumar Rai (82 points) and Naveen (63 points) for the lion's share. So if one day, one of them doesn't click, the other can step up and taken responsibility. Additionally, Kandola has been a true difference maker, the Steelers haven't lost whenever he's got a Super 10.
While the attack is brimming with confidence and laden with options, the same cannot be said for the defence. Haryana are seventh in the list of tackle points with 220 points and have a miserable tackle rate. 63.4 percent of their attempted tackles have been unsuccessful — which is the second-highest this season. Principally, Vikas Kale, with 38 tackle points, has a 68 percent failure rate — third-highest among defenders this season.
Steelers captain Dharmaraj Cheralathan spoke ahead of the contest against Mumbai and said: "We have had a good league stage, the team has performed well and built on their strengths, which brings a good balance to our team. We are focused on our match against U Mumba and have won a match and lost the other one against them. So, for the Eliminator we will be looking to execute a strategy based on our learnings from the previous games of this season. As a team, our ultimate aim is to emerge champions.”
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Updated Date: Oct 14, 2019 12:48:16 IST