On Saturday against Dabang Delhi, Rohit Kumar crossed the line six times to go for a raid attempt and came back empty-handed each time. If two were unsuccessful raids then four came up empty. To make things worse, he wasn't clicking with defensive duties also. He made one tackle and that, too, didn't help the team. The miserable showing meant the responsibility once again fell on Pawan Sehrawat to collect the points. And he did so with 17 points to rise to the top of the raid points this season in Pro Kabaddi. Rohit's poor showing also put a strain on the defence. Against a high flying Delhi playing at home, they fell two points short. Their second straight defeat.
Fast forward 24 hours and the picture was the complete opposite for Rohit and Bengaluru Bulls. This time the opponents were table-toppers Jaipur Pink Panthers. With their 115 tackle points, they were the best defensive unit. By the time the 40 minutes were up at the Thyagraj Stadium, Bengaluru Bulls had won 41-30 and resigned Jaipur to their third defeat in four games and second in a row. A large reason for Bengaluru's win, which should have been by an even bigger margin, rests on Rohit's shoulders. With 13 points from 19 raid attempts, one of them being his 1300th, he went past 50 raid points in the season.
Coming into the game, Rohit had amassed only 40 raid points from 10 games. A miserable collection for the skipper which would hardly inspire the team — a thought that kept him up at night. To amplify his concerns, he acknowledged the pressure was then felt by his fellow raider Sehrawat and the defence. Not helping his confidence either was the suggestion by coach Randhir Singh that Rohit might have to curtail his free-flowing attempts as they were paying dividends.
On Sunday, however, Singh gave Rohit free reign to attempt raids even if it resulted in unsuccessful raids. Even if it meant multiple touches. The plan was to go on the attack early on and take the lead. Only no one, not even the Bengaluru team, expected the lead to reach 22 points at one stage in the second half and 14 points at the break.
"The coach worked with me in practice after recent disappointing performances and he explained to me that I was one of the top raiders in the past few seasons. He asked what was not working this season and I told him that I was thinking of the team, that if I got out, the team shouldn't get all out. So he told me to ignore that and just go by his instructions," Rohit told Firstpost on his transformation on Sunday and the reason why he wasn't clicking earlier.
"Today he told me to go for bonus points even if I get unsuccessful, even if it results in 20 catches. He told me to play freely and he had the confidence in me and that boosted my energy levels too. I hope to continue with this form and work alongside Pawan in helping the team," he added.
Such was his dominance on the mat — a far cry from his miseries earlier in the season — that the Jaipur defenders could barely tackle him out. In the 28th minute, he had ventured far too deep in the Jaipur area and allowed himself to be sucked into the grasp of the defence. But such was his sheer will to get the job done that he untangled himself, somehow, and helped slightly by the weak Jaipur defence earned a three-pointer for his team. A super raid and Super 10 and Bengaluru were cruising along.
In the subsequent raid, Rohit came up unsuccessful but it was once again his hyperactive self that almost got another big raid. With Jaipur reduced to two men, it needed all the strength and the will of Sunil Siddhgavali to keep him down.
This poor run of form is new to Rohit. In his first season, he scored 109 points to be adjudged as the MVP. Two seasons later, he clinched 32 points in a single match while accumulating 231 points from 22 games. Last season, he led Bengaluru Bulls to the crown with 171 points.
"Last season, I started with a back injury and that is when Pawan clicked. A few games later I started to collect points and it started to work well for that. It is important that we both do well if we are to qualify. This season Pawan was doing well and I kept focusing on him doing well. But if I don't score well alongside, the defence can't be confident. The difference between teams would be very small and if I'm not collecting points for 20-25 minutes then it helps no one," he said on the need to work as a team if they are to reach the latter stages of the tournament.
"In earlier seasons, I may have collected the points and reached milestones, but the team didn't qualify (for the playoffs). Individual points don't mean to us, the team performance does. If the team wins the title, wins gold medals then it goes to all 18-squad members," he once again reiterated.
At the end of the night, Dabang Delhi, after beating UP Yoddha for back-to-back home wins, climbed to the top of the ladder. Jaipur Pink Panthers were displaced to second spot with Bengaluru Bulls on to fourth. UP Yoddha, meanwhile, are 10th in the table.
Updated Date: Aug 26, 2019 11:11:20 IST