Pro Kabaddi League 2021-22: Eight-point raid and mid-table shuffle highlight week 5
From Telugu Titans finally breaking jinx to Mohammad Nabibakhsh's eight-point raid, here's what happened in Pro Kabaddi League in week 5.
For a man who had just earned eight points for his team, in a single raid, Mohammad Nabibakhsh didn’t look all that excited. The Irani, who had been the last man on the mat for his team Bengal Warriors, had accidentally caused the most eventful raid of the season so far and simultaneously exposed the failings of the lobby rule in the sport.
During the Pro Kabaddi match between Bengaluru Bulls and Bengal Warriors on Thursday, 20 January, the Bulls had started to seize control and led 28-20 in the second half. That’s when Nabibakhsh stepped up. The Irani all-rounder earned a bonus point and was pinned down. But the TV review showed that he had stepped into the lobby without tagging any defender and as the entire Bulls outfit – all seven men on the mat—had followed him there, they were all out.
The raid helped the Warriors reduce the lead to one point. On the very next raid, they tackled the solitary Bulls player in the field, Chandran Ranjit, to inflict an all-out and take a three-point lead. Warriors eventually edged out the Bulls 40-39.
That one minute of madness typified the kind of week it was: no team was too weak, no lead too safe. While teams at the top of the table – Bulls, Delhi and Patna Pirates – faltered, others, like Pune, Haryana and Bengal have caught wind.
The Bulls just about managed to hang on to the lead. A 36-31 win over the Telugu Titans on Sunday saw them snap their run of three successive defeats and help them at the top of the table. The Bengaluru team has 46 points from 14 matches, while Dabang Delhi is second at 43 points from 13 matches.
But without their star raider Naveen Kumar, Delhi are looking far from invincible. They lost two of their three matches this week and their defence was in tatters as 10th-placed Puneri Paltan handed them a 42-25 drubbing on Monday.
Defending champions Bengal clawed their way back to No 3 on the leaderboard (41 points from 14 matches) while Haryana Steelers, who scored three wins on the trot this week, made it into the top-6 bracket (39 points 13 matches).
It was Telugu Titans, however, who breathed the sigh of relief in week 5. Without their lead raider Siddharth Desai, who has been out with injury, and out-of-form captain Rohit Kumar, the Titans drifted from one soul-sapping loss to another.
But they beat Jaipur Pink Panthers 35-34 on Wednesday, 19 January, to record their first win of Season 8. It looked like the Titans were headed for another loss when they ended half time at 20-13. But T Adarsh, primarily a defender, set the tone for the second half by producing a Super-Raid to inflict an all-out. He scored nine raid points and Rajnish chipped in with seven as the Titans battled back to victory.
The triumph, however, has remained an anomaly. Titans haven’t been able to back it up with decent performances and went down to Bengaluru and U Mumba (35-42) in the subsequent matches.
Right from the start of Season 8, the Haryana Steelers defence has been impressive and they went up a gear this week to record three successive wins.
While old war horse Surender Nada has stood tall in the left corner, cover defender Jaideep has been one of the finds of the season. Making his Pro Kabaddi debut in season 8, Jaideep already leads the defence charts: he has the League highest tackle points (45 in 13 matches).
Haryana’s defensive might came to the fore during their 37-30 win over the Puneri Paltan. Two of their defenders – Jaideep and Mohit—scored seven tackle points each on the day and Haryana outscoring Pune 16-9 in defence proved crucial in the final tally. If Haryana’s raiders, Vikash Khandola, Rohit Gulia and Meetu, start firing in tandem, they will be a difficult team to beat.
Despite the defeat against Haryana, the young Pune outfit has put up a spirited challenge this week. They handed League leaders Bengaluru Bulls a 37-35 defeat before scoring a comprehensive win over Delhi.
While season debutant Aslam Inamdar has done brilliantly after taking over as the lead raider of the team, it was Mohit Goyat who stole the show in the last two matches. Goyat scored 10 raid points and three tackle points as Pune stopped the Bulls in their tracks. He was again the highest scorer for Pune with 10 points, including nine raid points, as they defeated Delhi.
Pune’s slow start, however, means they are still stuck on No 10 in the standings.
Champions battle back
The Bengal Warriors also roared back into contention this week. Apart from the freak raid that helped them upstage Bengaluru, the Warriors also scored an encouraging 41-22 win over the Jaipur Pink Panthers.
Having taken a narrow 14-11 lead over the Panther in the first half, the defending champions were unstoppable in the second. They conceded only one tackle point while outscoring Jaipur 27-11 in the second half.
A couple of Bengal Warriors also reached personal milestones during the match. While Maninder Singh, who scored 13 points, became the fourth player in Pro Kabaddi to cross 900 raid points, a four-point performance from all-rounder Ran Singh saw him notch 250 tackle points.
Gujarat Giants tie with U Mumba 24-24
Dabang Delhi bt Patna Pirates 32-29
Telugu Titans bt Jaipur Pink Panthers 35-34
Haryana Steelers bt Puneri Paltan 37-30
Bengal Warriors bt Bengaluru Bulls 40-39
Gujarat Giants bt Tamil Thalaivas 37-35
UP Yoddha bt Bengal Warriors 40-36
Haryana Steelers bt Dabang Delhi 36-33
Jaipur Pink Panthers tie with Tamil Thalaivas 34-34
U Mumba bt Telugu Titans 42-35
Puneri Paltan bt Bengaluru Bulls 37-35
Haryana Steelers bt UP Yoddha 36-35
Bengaluru Bulls bt Telugu Titans 36-31
Bengal Warriors bt Jaipur Pink Panthers 41-22
Puneri Paltan bt Dabang Delhi 42-25
Deepti Patwardhan is a freelance sports writer based in Mumbai.