Pro Kabaddi League 2018: UP Yoddhas lose home battle as captain Rishank Devadiga struggles to impose authority on the mat

In the sixth season of the Pro Kabaddi League, the UP Yoddha now have a record that they would not have wanted. As the season moved to the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Noida, the home of the Yoddhas, the hosts became the first team this season to fail to register a single win in their den.

UP Yoddha's captain Rishank Devadiga in action. Twitter: @UpYoddha

UP Yoddha's captain Rishank Devadiga in action. Twitter: @UpYoddha

Noida was the fifth host city this term. But apart from the Puneri Paltan, none of the home teams have garnered much success from their home legs. The Yoddhas though managed two ties from their five home games, and lost three. The poor run isn’t a case freak drop of form, rather it’s a culmination of elements that has seen them win just three matches in 12.

At the start of the season, there were much hopes and expectations on the wide shoulders of their captain Rishank Devadiga. For long, the talented raider has won applause for his work ethic and efficiency on the court – he even led the Maharashtra state team to the national title for the first time in 11 years this January. Yet the 26-year-old, who came for a sum of Rs 1.11 crore, has been struggling to find any consistency this season.

In the five matches in Noida, Devadiga came up with a weak return of only 19 points – in two matches, in fact, he ended without scoring at all.

Instead, the UP franchise have had to rely on Shrikanth Jadhav to handle the responsibility of earning raid points, and so far he’s been the only silver lining. He’s picked up a decent tally of 74 points in 12 matches. And after their final home game against the Bengaluru Bulls, with Devadiga seemingly struggling with an ankle niggle and Prashanth Kumar Rai picking up an injury as well, Jadhav – who had to play the match with a strapped head – will likely be the franchise’s top raider.

Defensively the Yoddhas have been patchy, save for the heroics of league’s best defender so far Nitesh Kumar. Against the Bulls, the 21-year old top-scored for his team with 6 tackle points.

The Yoddha’s form though wasn’t the only major talking point form the Noida-leg of the tournament.

Zone B’s new leaders, the Bulls, have really started to pick up steam, the latest encounter ending in a comfortable 37-27 win over the Yoddha. Central to their success has been the form of their raiders, particularly Pawan Kumar Sehrawat. In seven matches so far this season, the 22-year-old is fifth on the leaderboard for most points, collecting 86. That’s a whopping 49 points more than their skipper Rohit Kumar, the MVP of season 3.

The youngster even picked up his fourth Super 10 effort for this season, two behind leader Pardeep Narwal of the Patna Pirates.

At the same time, Rohit, who had a slow start to the season, has started to impose his authority on the mat. In the Bulls’ first encounter against the Yoddha (the teams met twice at the venue), the 28-year-old notched up an impressive 14 points in a six-point win. When the teams met on the final day in Noida, he was happy picking up seven raid points while playing second fiddle to the explosive Sehrawat, who managed 11.

The past week also saw the return to form of Jaipur Pink Panthers’ star all-rounder Deepak Hooda. The 24-year-old was the first Indian to go for over a crore at the auctions in May, and is one of the PKL’s six crorepatis when Abhishek Bachchan’s franchise picked him up for Rs 1.15 crore. The gritty raider and effective defender, however, has been going through a rough patch after returning from the Asian Games.

When the Panthers took on the Steelers though, Hooda was in his element, picking up 12 raid points in his team’s 38-32 win.

The Noida-leg also had the prospect of being the venue for the setting of a new defence record, courtesy veteran Manjeet Chhillar. In the Yoddha’s opening match in Noida, they came up against a resurgent Tamil Thalaivas team led by Ajay Thakur and vice-captain Chhillar. The away side executed a crushing 22-point win in a match which saw Chhillar pick up eight-tackle points. The tally gave him his 20th ‘High 5,’ more than any other player in PKL history, as he broke Surender Nada’s tally of 19.

As the league now shifts to Mumbai, its sixth destination this season, another record is in the offing.

U Mumba’s Siddharth Desai is currently on 97 raid points in seven PKL matches in his debut season. When the Mumbai-franchise faced the Puneri Paltan in Noida, the powerful raider was expected to become the fastest player to reach 100 raid points, only for the shoulder injury he sustained in his previous match against the Pirates forcing him to skip the game.

But as the PKL shifts to his home leg, the 26-year-old will have a shot at that record when he leads the charge against the Pink Panthers on Friday in Mumbai.

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Updated Date: Nov 09, 2018 14:02:08 IST

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