Saturday’s Pro Kabaddi action at the EKA Arena by TransStadia saw two high-voltage, close matches, as Ajay Thakur stole the show for Tamil Thalaivas against the stuttering Gujarat Fortunegiants, while high-flying Dabang Delhi moved to top of the table with a narrow 32-30 victory over Puneri Paltan.
In the first match of the evening, Tamil Thalaivas banked on the experience of their strong unit as Thakur scored nine touchpoints, Mohit Chhillar led the defence with five points and Manjeet Chhillar scored four tackle points to register a convincing win.
Hosts Gujarat Fortunegiants made a strong start only to squander it moments before the half-time whistle as an All Out gave Tamil Thalaivas a 15-10 lead. Yet again, the home side started explosively and maintained the pressure on their opponents. Tamil Thalaivas had to regroup on the mat in the final stages of the match as Manjeet’s Super Raid and Mohit’s High 5 tackle shut down Gujarat Fortunegiants’ chances of a comeback.
“I just thought that today was our day. I told my players the same thing. Our defence was impressive. Ajay played brilliantly throughout to get us a win,” Thalaivas’ coach E Baskaran told the reporters after the match.
The coach feels that Gujarat have the potential to turn the match and are still the league’s best team despite three consecutive defeats.
“All the teams in this league have what it takes to win matches. There are no favourites here. Anyone can turn the course of the game in no time. Gujarat are the best team, according to me. Our team is not behind. I had expected a neck-and-neck fight, but it was our experience that stood out,” he added.
Captain Thakur has often pulled his team out of difficult situations in recent games and on Saturday, Thalaivas needed a captain’s performance to guide them to victory.
“I bank on my experience on the mat. I’ve been playing the sport for years now and I know where to put my strong foot. That stands out in a long season. The decisions that we make during crunch situations reflect the outcome,” said Thakur.
“We were clearly under pressure. Super raids come out of nowhere. Thankfully, we motivated ourselves during the match and were able to register successful raid points at the end. We didn’t give up, mentally,” he added.
Pune miss by a whisker
Despite a gritty second-half performance, Puneri Paltan ended up on the losing side, owing to defensive errors at the end.
Dabang Delhi played with aggression and their balanced unit paved the way for a 19-11 lead at the break. Delhi didn’t lose the grip and survived a late onslaught from fit-again Nitin Tomar.
Pune had more raiding points than Delhi, however, they couldn’t steady the ship defensively.
“Raiding was extremely good, but our defence was weak. I’m happy with the performance and Nitin’s comeback. We’ve only played six matches and there are many more to come. But with Nitin, we can do better. Defensive errors are a part of the game,” said Puneri Paltan coach Anup Kumar.
Unfazed by the result, Anup was delighted to welcome a healthy Tomar back to the team. “He’s a star player, but injuries kept him away in the first five matches. His raiding was good. We need him more than ever now,” said Anup.
Anup has complete faith in his defensive unit despite the silly errors, including Manjeet’s buzzer raid gaffe. “Our defence can do better. Honestly, Delhi is a strong team. They’ve only lost once so far.”
On his return, Tomar said, “It feels great to grace the mat again. I know I can make the difference with my team and I’m here for that. The coach knows that too.”
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2019 10:43:49 IST