When the Pro Kabaddi caravan reached Jaipur for the penultimate leg of the marathon tournament, several sides entered the last-chance saloon. From newcomers to former champions, the fight to reach the play-offs had them all scrapping.
For Jaipur Pink Panthers, last year's runners-up, the home leg was a chance to repair a campaign crippled with inconsistency, while for the likes of Gujarat Fortunegiants and Bengal Warriors, it was about establishing supremacy and strengthening their grip of their respective groups' summits.
Injuries and fatigue threatened to take the gloss of the leg, but the need for survival meant there was not an inch given at the Sawai Mansingh indoor stadium.
Jaipur played host to inter-zone wildcard fixtures that were set after a random draw in Hyderabad earlier in the season, but unlike previous inter-zone clashes, Zone B sides stole the march on Zone A teams. Perhaps, the pressure of close competition got to the Zone A teams in Jaipur.
As teams head to Pune for the final chapter of the league stage, here's a look at the talking points from the Jaipur leg.
Unbalanced Jaipur pay the price
Hosts Jaipur Pink Panthers became another victim of the home curse in the Pro Kabaddi League this season, when they lost five of the six games to crash out of the play-off race. While the team appeared to be one of the strongest on paper, lack of back-ups to key players whose fitness was under question since the tournament began cost Jaipur a place in the knock-out stages. Both Manjeet Chhillar and Jasvir Singh missed eight games each due to injury. In Jaipur, Manjeet Chhillar cut a sorry figure in the stands as he saw his side lose a nail-biter to Dabang Delhi which is the only side to have had a worse season than the Pink Panthers.
Jaipur were unlucky to lose K Selvamani to injury in the very first match of the season, but their lack of squad depth, which was a problem for the team on several occasions during the season, was horribly exposed in the home leg when they had to play six matches in seven days.
Record-breaking Rishank Devadiga has UP Yoddha on the brink of play-off spot
Rishank Devadiga shattered the record for most points in a single game, jointly held by Kashiling Adake and Pardeep Narwal (24 points), when he went on a rampage in UP Yoddha's 53-32 thrashing of the Pink Panthers. The Mumbai lad scored 28 points to rip the Pink Panthers' defensive organisation. He scored the points in just 27 raids, making his feat even more impressive. The win puts Yoddha needing just a point from their two remaining matches to seal qualification for the play-offs.
Devadiga has had his share of injuries in the past that prevented him from being considered one of the best raiders in the league, but his performance in Jaipur shows that he's back to full fitness just at the perfect time for the newcomers, who will look to have a real go at winning the title in their debut campaign.
Gujarat Fortunegiants regain peak form
The Fortunegiants have been one of the stronger team in the competition so far. At a point of time in the season, the Manpreet Singh-coached side looked unstoppable and are the only team to go through their home leg unbeaten. However, the team mostly filled with youngsters went through a blip in mid season. An eight-match unbeaten run was followed by a streak of five games in which they managed just one win. However, Gujarat regained form and have strung a four-game winning run going into the Pune leg.
In Jaipur, the Fortunegiants faced one of their toughest tests in the form of Patna Pirates, but the Gujarat rearguard led from the front, managed to shackle Pardeep Narwal and Co to record an impressive 33-29 win. With another victory against the Pink Panthers in Jaipur, the Fortunegiants have given themselves a chance top top Zone A at the end of the league stage. The Fortunegiants have found their mojo again. Beware!
Haryana soar, U Mumba sour
With the race for qualification in Zone B all but sorted, all eyes were on the battle between Haryana Steelers and U Mumba in Zone A. Facing an in-form Telugu Titans and home side Jaipur Pink Panthers, the Haryana Steelers had a slightly tougher run than the Mumbai side. But the Steelers showed their mettle to win both games and confirm their passage to the next round, while U Mumba crumbled under pressure to with defeats to struggling Pink Panthers and Tamil Thalaivas.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going and it was the Steelers who proved it at the business end of the season in Jaipur.
Updated Date: Oct 13, 2017 18:47 PM