The Pro Kabaddi caravan is making its last couple of stops before six out of the twelve teams bid adieu to their season. In the past week, the Jawaharlal Nehru indoor stadium in Chennai hosted the 12 teams that fought out of their skins to stay alive in the tournament.
The results from the home of season debutants Tamil Thalaivas has allowed certain teams to book a place in the business end of the tournament while a few other teams are left with no other option but to throw in the towel.
With the Jaipur and Pune legs coming up in the next couple of weeks, here's a list of takeaways from the decisive Chennai leg.
The home curse strikes harder
There are many factors that prove to be a major difference between each of the teams that rough it out on the mat, but if there is anything that connects most of these teams apart from the intent to win, is the 'home curse'.
PKL season five has seen home teams win just 19 out of a possible 60 matches, a winning percentage of 31.67. Except Gujarat Fortunegiants, who remained unbeaten in their home leg and Patna Pirates who won four, every other team constantly reinforced that in this season, home advantage is just a myth and if anything, it's a huge disadvantage.
Mirroring Dabang Delhi's misfortunes, the Ajay Thakur-led Tamil Thalaivas remained winless in their six matches.
Failing to win a single match on their home turf has left Tamil Thalaivas to languish in the bottom of the Zone B table. Though, the team had to end on the wrong side of extremely close matches throughout the season, it is victories that matter and the team never managed to move even one place up in the table since the start of the league.
With the Thalaivas facing U Mumba, Bengal Warriors and Patna Pirates in their remaining matches, the team's campaign seems to have run its course. The only impact the new comer could make in the remaining matches might be in preventing the Mumbai team from reaching the knockout stages.
Uncanny resemblance to the Delhi leg
Apart from the losing streak, Chennai had yet another similarity with Dabang Delhi's run on their home turf.
There was not a single tied encounter in the 11 matches played in Chennai. With the knockout stages looming in, every team is going for all-out points and is in no mood to share the spoils. Just like in Delhi, the lack of ties this week has lent clarity on top of the table.
While, Chennai had its share of close matches with the home team themselves featuring in quite a few, the vociferous crowd couldn't witness a single drawn encounter that used to be the norm in the first eight weeks of the season.
Raiders make merry
This has indeed been the season of raiders with Super 10's becoming a regular feature. In season four of PKL, the total number of super raids by the top five raiders were 18 compared to 46 this edition. Though Pardeep Narwal continues to hold the numero uno position in the list of raiders, it is the young players who have made the most use of the long tournament.
While the expected names like Narwal, Rahul Chaudhari, Rohit Kumar and Ajay Thakur feature high on the list, the young guns like Vikas Kandola, Sachin, Anand Patil, K Prapanjan and Monu Goyat have been revelations in their role of second raiders in their respective teams.
In the Chennai leg, the Tamil Thalaivas captain Thakur was in imperious form and scored 75 points in six matches. Barring three games, every remaining match saw a raider claim a super 10.
Nearly two-thirds of points scored in this year's PKL has come through raids and with many youngsters manning the defence, the lack of experience has proved to be costly for the teams. With high scoring matches becoming frequent, the raiders are threatening to run away with all the plaudits this season and it is high time the defence buckles up and provides a much better balance to the game.
The final picture gets clearer
Newcomers Gujarat Fortunegiants and Haryana Steelers are shakily perched on top of their zone. Puneri Paltan, strong contenders for the top spot, are just 10 points away from Gujarat and have have played four games lesser than them.
The first season champions, Jaipur Pink Panthers still stand a chance to make it to the knockouts with the caravan moving to Jaipur next. However, their unstable form and injury woes might make it tougher than it should be for the Manjeet Chhillar-led side which finished runner-up in season four.
The contrasting results of U Mumba in the Chennai leg has made a mess of their knockout hopes. Though the team can still make it to the knockouts, it might get too much for the season two champions in a zone that is called the zone of death.
Compared to the cluttered Zone A, the Zone B seems to be in a zen-like mode over the past few weeks. Patna Pirates are on top of the table with just two points separating them from Bengal Warriors. Both the teams have cleared their paths to the knockout stages and the other four teams don't seem to pose much of a threat to their domination.
The third place is now being held by the UP Yoddha and just one win out of their next three matches will get them through. Though the Telugu Titans and Bengaluru Bulls still have an outside chance to make it to the knockouts, the writing on the wall for Tamil Thalaivas is clear.
Can Jaipur Pink Panthers pull off a miracle?
The season one champions and last season's runner-ups had a roller-coaster of a tournament so far. Out of the 15 games played, they have won seven, lost seven and tied one. Such mixed fortunes for a star-studded team has left the other teams in the zone on a shaky ground. If they have a decent outing in their home leg, it could result in disturbing the present standings in zone A.
Jaipur needs to win at least four of their next seven matches to be in contention for a knockout berth. But, it is easier said than done for a team that has been plagued with inconsistencies and injuries. They haven't managed to field a full strength team in the competition so far and the young players have had their share of off days over the past 10 weeks.
With the Pink Panthers moving on to home turf, a consistent run will boost their chances and hamper their well-laid plans of the other teams.
But, with the franchises succumbing to the home jinx with alarming regularity, only time will tell whether Jaipur Pink Panthers join Gujarat Fortunegiants and Patna Pirates as success stories or become the ninth team to fail in front of a passionate home crowd.
Updated Date: Oct 06, 2017 17:54 PM