Out of the six teams that are now ruing their missed chances to get into the top three of their respective zones and qualify for the play-offs, there is just one franchise that almost toppled the applecart – Bengaluru Bulls
Bengaluru Bulls were the most enterprising franchise in Pro Kabaddi League Season 5. They were part of both the biggest wins and humbling losses.
The team went out with a hard-fought match against table-toppers Patna Pirates that was tied 29-29 when the final whistle blew, ending on 57 points, three shy of the third placed UP Yoddha.
The last four matches showed what Bengaluru Bulls could have been if everything had gone in their favour right from the start of this 3-month long tournament.
However, this became yet another season where the Bengaluru franchise had to settle for being the team that has a lot of potential, but fails to deliver in the big moments. A tag that the team has failed to shrug off ever since the inception of the Pro Kabaddi League in 2014.
Bengaluru Bulls started this tournament making all the right noises. A comprehensive win against the home team Telugu Titans in Hyderabad and pipping the newcomer Tamil Thalaivas in the Bulls' adopted home Nagpur gave a lot of hope for the fans who have stuck by the team despite the flailing fortunes of the previous two seasons.
Winning just one match out of their next five in front of a raucous home crowd was a sign of things to come for the team led by the star raider and captain, Rohit Kumar.
Bengaluru's undoing in the previous edition was their over-reliance on Rohit Kumar, who had then top-scored in 12 out of the 14 matches. It wasn't much of a change in the 2017 season as Rohit's heroics took them to sniffing distance of a play-off position.
Rohit's 231 raid points is second only to Pardeep Narwal's 274. But, Narwal's top score took his team to the play-offs and placed the Patna Pirates in the second position in Zone B, while Rohit's high-scoring form couldn't take his team all the way through.
This could be mainly attributed to the fact that there was once again an absence of a consistently strong second raider to pull the team out of uncomfortable positions when Rohit fails to deliver.
Though Ajay Kumar's 89 raid points puts him in the top 20, the gap in the two raiders was too wide for Bengaluru Bulls' liking.
The lack of team effort in most of the games pulled the team down to a considerable extent that the last hurrah of sorts exhibited by the Bengaluru franchise was a case of too little too late.
The six-match losing streak right in the initial stage set the tone for the fifth season and the team was never in a position of comfort and was perennially playing catch-up with the higher-ranked teams.
The desolate look of the captain who attended every post-match press conference with slouched shoulders and a weak smile during those trying times was painful to watch.
Bengaluru Bulls dished out Rs 81 lakh for Rohit in the auctions and had to spend the remaining amount to build an entire team around him. The management and coach Randhir Singh had decided to go for a team that relied a lot on its relatively inexperienced youngsters to stay fit and match-ready over the course of the gruelling scheduling.
The young brigade led by Ajay flattered to deceive as Bengaluru Bulls were found wanting in many situations in the absence of Rohit. Even Ashish Kumar, the player retained by the franchise, proved to be very ineffective in the play proceedings that the team's strategy was in complete disarray.
A lack of team effort and complete absence of cohesion among the teammates led to the fans, other teams and even the own team deciding the fate of the franchise well before the confirmed list of play-offs teams could be determined.
After one of the losses in Sonepat, with a solid five weeks of action remaining, Rohit said in the post-match press conference, "Since our chances are pretty low, all we can do is disrupt the chances of other teams in the running."
Considering the fact that they were too close to making it to the play-offs at the end of 12 weeks of league action, such a resignation to their unwritten fate could be the biggest reason for the misfortunes of the Bengaluru Bulls.
Bengaluru Bulls need to get back to the drawing board and rethink all their strategies and redraw all their well-laid plans ahead of the next season because everything that could go wrong for the franchise in PKL season 5 went wrong with spectacular consistency.
However, though the Bengaluru Bulls end yet another disappointing season, the franchise can move out of the 2017 season with their heads held high.
One of the high-points of this year's tournament will be the resurgence of the Rohit Kumar-led team in the last three matches.
With three games to go in the last leg of the round-robin matches, Bengaluru Bulls performed with a renewed sense of vigour that was missing in them over the course of the fifth season.
They still had an outside chance to make it through to the play-offs, but even a win against the UP Yoddha wasn't enough to pull down the newcomers from their third position as a bonus point ensured the team led by Nitin Tomar followed Bengal Warriors and Patna Pirates into the play-offs.
The match that followed was something no one could have imagined. Playing UP Yoddha once again in a span of two days, Bengaluru Bulls were only playing for pride.
They can absolutely be proud of that match, where Rohit broke all existing record to score a whopping 32 points to decimate the UP Yoddha by a margin of 40 points.
The final score read 64-24 in the favour of the Bulls. UP Yoddha were completely deflated by the onslaught and managed to score eight points lesser than Rohit's individual score.
Bengaluru Bulls' finishing was extraordinary but the hiccups in between and the defeatist attitude among the players proved to be the undoing of the franchise this year.
At the beginning of the season, Rohit in an interview with Firstpost said, "Last year I was the only raider, I didn't have any support. I also made a few mistakes but it just didn't happen for us."
It is unfortunate that despite all the signings, strategy and rejigs in the team, Rohit would have similar things to say about the performance of his team's performance in the fifth edition if and when asked ahead of the sixth season in 2018.
Updated Date: Oct 21, 2017 17:32:20 IST