New Delhi: Dabang Delhi KC consolidated their position at the top of the pile with a clinical, all-round win over old nemesis U Mumba on Wednesday night at the capital's Thyagaraj Sports Complex, but the hosts' memorable win was marred by the controversy surrounding a review.
Sometime during the second half of the match with Delhi in the lead, hosts' star raider Naveen Kumar appeared to have touched rival captain and key defender Fazel Atrachali before running back to safety.
Naveen's lightening quick attempt was rewarded with a point, but U Mumba, led by Atrachali, contested the call. The decision was referred to TV umpires, who ruled in favour of the hosts.
The 27-year-old was visibly distraught and called out the umpiring in the post-match press conference.
"I am 99 percent sure there was no touch. I will have to go and check again, but if I was not sure, why would I have taken the review in the first place? I think the TV umpire made a mistake," the Iranian said with a wry smile.
Atrachali, who successfully tackled Naveen a few times during the match while also being sent out more than once by the 18-year-old on a raucous night, was seen conversing with the Delhi player after the final whistle. When asked about their chat, Atrachali said, "After the match, I told Naveen it was no touch; I was sure of that and that's why I reviewed."
"I told Naveen that the review was wrong. I told him to go to the TV umpires and check the footage himself. That was a wrong call."
The Delhi camp, obviously, saw nothing amiss. "The people who make these decisions are qualified to make such calls. Those people look at a number of videos before arriving at a conclusion, and once the decision has been made, it should be accepted. I don't think there should be any question on this at all," Dabang Delhi head coach Krishan Hooda said.
This is not the first instance in the current edition that referring or umpiring has drawn unwarranted attention. Earlier this month, in the Mumbai leg of the league, Telugu Titans were denied a thrilling win against UP Yoddhas on the last raid of the match.
In that game, the referees awarded Yoddha a technical point on the grounds that Titans skipper Abozar Mohajermighani had entered the mat from the bench to celebrate before the final whistle was blown. The Titans reviewed the decision but the referees stuck to their guns.
Irrespective of that contentious point, Naveen had another good day at work as the young raider effected his eighth consecutive Super 10 to equal Patna Pirates' Pardeep Narwal's record. Naveen now has a total 116 points - including 115 raid points - and is firmly behind Pawan Kumar Sehrawat, who is having another stellar season with Bengaluru Bulls.
Naveen, who was the top raider on Wednesday too with 11 raid points, credited the support from the team and crowd for his performance.
"It is always nice to have the crowd behind you. The support was fantastic. Everyone in the team is very encouraging too and they constantly egg me on and make sure my belief and morale are high," he said.
The final scoreline of 40-24 suggests a thoroughly comprehensive win, but Delhi fell back in the match early. The hosts trailed 0-4 before mounting a comeback. In no time, U Mumba were reduced to three men and once Delhi led 9-6, and then 14-11 going into the break, there were no doubts as to who the better team was.
Commenting on the match, U Mumba head coach Sanjeev Kumar said, "Both teams defended well. We had planned to control Naveen early, and we succeeded initially, but when two evenly-matched teams play, the early lead becomes crucial.
"Naveen took an important couple of points for them when we were short of players on the mat, and that turned the momentum. They inflicted an all-out, and since both teams were defending well, a 3-4-point lead becomes detrimental. Delhi built on their lead and took the match away from us," he explained.
U Mumba's 14-2 win-loss record over Delhi was rendered completely irrelevant as Delhi came out all guns blazing in the second half to take the tie by the scruff of its neck. U Mumba's defence was unable to hold the raiding onslaught and Delhi's lead, powered by a partisan capacity crowd, swelled steadily.
The win makes Delhi the first team in the ongoing edition of PKL to complete three wins in the home leg. Delhi captain Joginder Singh Narwal credited teamwork for his side's pole position.
"Noone in this team plays for himself. Be it Naveen, Vishal Mane, myself, Saeid Ghaffari or anyone, we all play for the team. Its a team sport and one or two performances can't win you many games. We play together as a team, and that's been a secret to our success," Narwal said.
Delhi next face bottom-placed Patna Pirates on Friday while sixth-placed U Mumba play Jaipur Pink Panthers on Saturday. Pirates, despite a forgettable season so far, will test Delhi's defence through the guiles of Pardeep Narwal, and an enticing raiding one-on-one between him and Naveen is likely to highlight the fixture.
Joginder ruled out any talk of pressure with typical bombast. "There's no pressure. Other teams have some very good players too, but when we step on the mat, everyone is equal. I've never put myself under pressure ever in my life, and neither will I ever do," he said. Whether he will be able to live up to his words against Pirates, we'll know in a day's time.
Updated Date: Aug 29, 2019 11:38:59 IST