Pro Kabaddi League 2017: From Sachin Tawar's rise to Telugu Titans' woes, takeaways from Ahmedabad leg
Before action shifts to Lucknow, and the second part of the inter-zone challenge week gets under way, here's a look at the takeaways from the Ahmedabad leg
After Nagpur, it was Ahmedabad's turn to experience its first taste of Pro Kabaddi League action. While the Nagpur leg was a make-shift arrangement, the Ahmedabad stanza marked kabaddi's second coming to the city after it played host to the Kabaddi World Cup last year.
The city saw Gujarat Fortunegiants play their first ever home leg, and their debut on home turf proved to be highly successful. Ahmedabad also saw teams clashing outside their zones for the first time, resulting in some really closely-fought encounters.
Once again, some new faces made their mark, while old ones further enhanced their reputations with some fine performances. Before the action shifts to Lucknow, and the second part of the inter-zone challenge week gets under way, here's a look at the takeaways from the Ahmedabad leg.
Gujarat Fortunegiants make most of home comfort
Telugu Titans and Bengaluru Bulls didn't have the best of times on their home patches with both teams winning just three matches in total. But that trend was broken by the Gujarat Fortunegiants, who continued to spring surprises. Few gave the newcomers hope of reaching the play-offs at the start of the campaign, but thanks to a rampant streak on home turf, they now sit pretty on top of the Zone A charts.
All cogs of the Fortunegiant juggernaut performed seamlessly to help them win five and tie one in Ahmedabad. While youngster Sachin Kawar stole the show in the raiding department, corner combination of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani made the defence lethal.
The crushing win over U Mumba on the first day set the tone for Gujarat's dominance at the TransStadia Arena and it required a solid Bengal Warriors side to halt their charge. The Fortunegiants have been a breath of fresh air to Pro Kabaddi, and coach Manpreet Singh will hope his young side retain this momentum for the rest of the season.
Captain Nitin Tomar leads from the front
Nitin Tomar made the headlines even before the season began when the UP Yoddha paid Rs 93 lakh to acquire his services. Many believed Tomar would struggle to live up to his price tag, but so far, the brawny raider has justified the Yoddha's faith in him.
Despite having the added burden of captaincy, Tomar has hardly let the extra pressure affect him. His UP Yoddha side have won three out of the five matches played and have tied one against champions Patna Pirates.
In Ahmedabad, Tomar was in special touch as he scored 18 points in two matches against formidable opponents to help the Yoddha to take eight points out of it.
"There is no added pressure on me. I am ready to contribute in every department that my team needs me and do as my coach wants," Tomar said after scoring a Super 10 against Patna Pirates to halt their winning run. If Tomar sticks to his guns throughout the season, UP Yoddha will have a shot at winning the title.
Zone A teams earn edge over Zone B sides
The highlight of the Ahmedabad leg was the beginning of the inter-zone challenge week. After two and a half weeks of intra-zone action, teams clashing outside their zones was a mouth-watering prospect.
As things panned out, teams from Zone A have proved to have the upper hand as these sides have won four out of the six clashes, with the other two ending in ties.
The second part of the inter-zone challenge week will take place in Lucknow where the Zone B teams will look to come to terms with their Zone A counterparts.
Sachin Tawar, the new star on the horizon
The chants of 'Sachin... Sachin' are familiar to all sports fans in India. From this season, they have been a regular feature in Kabaddi arenas with Sachin Tendulkar paying visits as owner of the Tamil Thalaivas. But these chants have become specially popular with the Ahmedabad faithful, and it's got nothing to do with the Master Blaster.
Sachin Tawar and not Tendulkar is the reason behind it. Sachin like his more illustrious namesake is a fine young prodigy. Having captained the junior Indian kabaddi team, Sachin made his mark in the very first game in Pro Kabaddi scoring from his very first raid in a do-or-die situation. Since, he has regularly impressed in the Fortunegiants shirt, but in Ahmedabad he reached an altogether different level.
With 44 raid points in six matches, Sachin has been Gujarat's trump card in a fantastic home leg. Coach Manpreet Singh believes it's just matter of time before he becomes a senior team regular.
Telugu Titans woes worsens, U Mumba appear shadow of former self
The fifth edition has been a season to forget for Telugu Titans. Since winning the season opener against Tamil Thalaivas, the Titans have failed to win a game. Rahul Chaudhari and Co came into Ahmedabad leg having stopped the rot of five straight losses with a tie with Bengaluru Bulls in Nagpur, hoping they would take the next step and record a win. But their fortunes once again took a dip, and they left Ahmedabad with the same sinking feeling that they experienced while leaving their own home city.
Two demoralising defeats have left their season in tatters. Chaudhari has been the lone ranger in the camp, with a lack of support for Pro Kabaddi's most successful raiders quite telling. In the 32-39 loss against UP Yoddha in Ahmedabad, Chaudhari scored 12 raid points, but the rest of the starting seven managed just seven. A weak defence has rendered all of Chaudhari's good work pretty useless, and if the Men in Yellow don't buck the trend, the season could be up earlier than they expected.
U Mumba, once the giants of Pro Kabaddi, are a shadow of their former self now. A team that was synonymous to consistency, they have been very erratic with their performances in this season. Anup Kumar has been the only consistent performer so far, but like Chaudhari, he too has lacked a solid support. U Mumba's woes aren't as bad as that of the Titans, but with the hectic home leg coming up, the Mumbai outfit need to pull their socks up, or be ready to be dumped into the abyss.