Hyderabad: Before the first match of Pro Kabaddi League season seven got underway, all eyes were on Telugu Titans’ new signing Siddharth Desai. After a breakthrough first season with U Mumba in which he notched an impressive 218 points, the Titans broke the bank for Desai and made him the second-most expensive player in the history of PKL for a whopping Rs 1.45 crore. With Rahul Chaudhari being bought by the Tamil Thalaivas, the Titans faithful had a new star to root for and they promptly nicknamed Desai as Bahubali after the eponymous king made famous by the movies.
With the first match of the season taking place in Hyderabad, Desai was handed the opportunity to become an instant fan-favourite and establish the Titans’ title challenge. But it was not to be as Desai ended up spending more time on the Titans' bench than on the mat in a forgettable debut. That he had to endure it against his old side, only made it worse for the Sangli-based raider.
As Desai went in for his first raid as a Titan, chants of Bahubali rang around the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium. Perhaps testing the waters against his old comrades, Desai came back empty-handed. His second raid attempt resulted in him being tackled by U Mumba skipper Fazel Atrachali. That set the tone for the first-half and indeed the rest of the match. With the Titans facing a do-or-die raid, Desai went in for his fourth foray into the Mumbai half but got taken out by the excellent Surender Singh.
It went from bad to worse for the Titans' number 9. He went in for his sixth raid of the match and tested the Mumbai defence with speculative running hand touches and scorpion kicks but couldn’t get the vital touch. With the clock running down, Desai came back to his half only to find out that it was a do-or-die raid for his team forcing him to return to the bench. That ended up being his last action for the half and his stats read two empty raids, four unsuccessful raids and 0 points.
When the teams took to the mat for the second half, Desai was missing from the Titans' seven. On being quizzed about the decision to not start Desai for the second half, coach Gholamreza Mazandarani put it down to his star raider not being mentally in the match.
For 13 minutes in the second half, Desai watched from the dugout as his new team struggled to get points against his old team. The defensive duo of Atrachali and Sandeep Narwal stayed solid against the Titans' raiders while Abhishek Singh notched a Super 10 with his clinical raids.
When Desai finally came onto the mat in the 29th minute, his team was trailing 15-24. He would have to wait for four more minutes to get his first point as a Titan which came via a bonus point. With the match all but lost, Desai was finally able to show his raiding prowess with the help of some lax Mumbai defence towards the end. While he finished as his team’s second-highest point-getter on the night with five points, he fell way short of the lofty standards he had set last season.
On asked about his star raider’s dismal match, Mazandarani said, “I think there was more pressure on him because everyone expects him to score more than 15 points every match. But you should know he’s only one player.”
“Today’s match was more troublesome for him because he was playing against his former teammates and they know his skills and weaknesses. You’ll see a much better Siddharth in the next matches,” the Iranian said.
Titans fans and kabaddi fans, in general, would be hoping that Desai manages to get his game back on track and prove that last season was no fluke.
Updated Date: Jul 21, 2019 08:18:50 IST