New Delhi: As you enter the 6,000-capacity arena at Thaygraj Sports Complex in the Capital where the Pro Kabaddi matches are being played, the energy hits you. There is high-voltage music to which hordes of boisterous fans with their placards and flags dance in abandon. It already appears like a glamorous show before the real show begins.
The deal in the first game of the Wednesday (28 August) encounters was Haryana Steelers vs Gujarat Fortunegiants. The former was on two-match a winning spree, looking for their third consecutive victory in the season while the latter still looking to find a footing.
While it was all noisy as usual for the players, the focus was on winning. Gujarat needed a victory to enter the top 5 of the table and take a sigh of huge relief. Haryana, on the other, wanted the win to assure the plain sailing was not disturbed.
For one man, however, the noise was special because in creating that buzz and atmosphere inside the huge box at the stadium, there was equal participation from his friends and family. Kandola's family and dear ones from his village had thronged in numbers at the venue. He had had a good season so far in the league. However, Wednesday was extra special. He wanted to win it for his side in front of his people.
And the fifth-placed player on top raiders' list of this season quickly switched on his beast mode. His agility was there to be seen as he inflicted one successful raid after the other. Steelers were racing ahead with the points and lacklustre defence of Gujarat was a mere spectator, just like the six thousands of us. Their defence struggled to contain Kandola. The raider inflicted the first All-Out on Gujarat with a 3-point raid in the 15th minute of the first half to move to an 8-point lead.
Later, Kandola was tackled twice by Ruturaj Koravi but by then Steelers had broken the morale of Gujarat's team. By the half-time, Haryana were nine points ahead of Gujarat and the body language of both the teams gave early indications of who was going to emerge victorious in the end. That was somewhat reflected in Gujarat coach Manpreet Singh's words after the match. He said, "Our defence was weak in the first half and then we panicked and wanted to hurry things. From thereon, it just became difficult to stage a comeback. The raiders started well but after the bad start even they went on back foot. We could not stick to our plans." Captain Sunil Kumar Malik also blamed the defence for the loss which had no say against Kandola and Co.
Gujarat did play well in the second half but it was not enough to curtail the Steelers. Kandola was tackled, lost some gas but he had given Haryana enough impetus to keep the opponents on a tight leash. If the first half was about him, the second half was about Prashanth Kumar Rai and Ravi Kumar who made sure Haryana's offence and defence were equally phenomenal. Prasanth finished with 8 points and Ravi with 6 tackle points. It was a match where Haryana had upped their defensive game, removing one more chink in their overall game. The game finished 41-25 in Haryana's corner.
For Kandola, it was a win-win situation where he sent back his family and friends on a happy note. He said, "Support from people matters a lot in sport. There were many people from my village today in the stands. My father, uncle, friends all came today to watch the match. It motivates you a lot when they are backing you."
Haryana have now moved to third on the points table, announcing to the leaders that they are on a rise. As for Gujarat, the task becomes tougher as they go down to ninth spot from sixth. Time will run out quickly now. Hopefully, some luck is in store for Fortunegiants as they face Bengaluru Bulls next.
Updated Date: Aug 29, 2019 09:42:01 IST