The Telugu Titans had kept the best for the last – Rahul Chaudhari v Pardeep Narwal – on the closing night at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Vizag. The longest waging raiding battle in Pro Kabaddi. Pardeep started Thursday’s game at 810 raid points in the league, Chaudhari just shy of 800 at 798.
But neither three-time defending champions Patna nor Pardeep have been particularly effective against the Titans in the kabaddi league. Taking heart from a 2-0 record over Patna this season, Telugu played with a rare confidence and cohesion. Chaudhari played his part to perfection, scoring 13 raid points while the defence, led by captain Vishal Bhardwaj rose to the occasion. They managed to hold down the slickest of customers in Pardeep in the first half, tackling him five times in the first 20 minutes. Though the most prolific scorer in the league tried to lift his team with an 11-point effort in the second half, it wasn’t enough to stop the Titans march. Telugu finished their home leg with an encouraging 41-36 victory over Patna.
It was Telugu’s third win in the week that helped them stay ahead in the race for qualification from the very competitive Zone B. While the Bengaluru Bulls beat the Titans 37-24 in the week to stretch their lead at the top of the group to 64, the other five teams still have a chance to make it through.
Telugu cut down Patna’s lead to two points with Thursday’s win: the Pirates are currently placed second at 52 points from 18 matches while Telugu are third with 50 from 19 matches. The bottom-placed Tamil Thalaivas (34 points from 18 matches) have taken some heavy blows but with four more matches to go are still mathematically within reach of Telugu and Patna.
Though Pardeep wasn’t quite able to inspire Patna to a comeback win over Telugu, he had, earlier in the week, crushed Puneri Paltan with a season-high of 27 raid points. During the 53-36 win over Pune, Pardeep had become the first player in the league to score 800 raid points. The Pirates raider is thus back where he belongs: at the top of the leaderboard. Pardeep is level with U Mumba debutant Siddharth Desai with 197 raid points in season 6. Pawan Kumar Sehrawat, who returned with 13 raid points against Telugu, is second at 190 raid points from 18 matches.
The Telugu Titans had started the season with promise, with Chaudhari leading the charge and Bhardwaj and Irani defender Abozar Mighani manning the defence. They haven’t quite managed to keep up with that intensity but got into some sort of rhythm in the home leg. They ran high-flying Gujarat Fortunegiants close in the opening match (29-27) and followed it up with a 36-26 win over Jaipur Pink Panthers. Their defence stepped up in the game against Haryana Steelers, scoring six Super Tackles to edge to a 35-31 win.
However, they succumbed 27-20 in a testy, low-scoring encounter against the UP Yodha. The UP team looked down in the dumps a while ago as they went 10 straight matches without a win. But having edged out Haryana Steelers 30-29 last week, they withstood the pressure against Telugu. They were just a shade better in both offence and defence to beat the Titans and stay in the mix.
While Zone B is still in a flux, Zone A leaders U Mumba and Gujarat Fortunegiants seem to be in a league of their own. The Mumbai franchise held on to their four-point lead at the top of Zone A with two comfortable wins in the week. They overcame Bengal 31-20 on Saturday; then ran riot over Dabang Delhi, beating them 44-19 on Tuesday.
Gujarat, who have 78 points from 19 matches, have suffered the least number of defeats after 10 weeks of action. They have lost only three games so far. In Vizag, having beaten Telugu on opening night, they defeated Haryana Steelers 47-37 on Wednesday.
Dabang Delhi are most likely to take up the third qualification spot in Zone A. They have 60 points from 20 matches and with Puneri Paltan and Steelers out of the race, face only a weak opposition in the form of Jaipur Pink Panthers.
The winners of the inaugural PKL in 2014, Jaipur, have been one of the most underwhelming teams this season. Despite experienced players like Deepak Hooda, who went for more than a crore, Mohit Chhillar and Anup Kumar on their roster, they have struggled to come together as a team and have won only four of their 15 matches so far. Jaipur will now have to win all their remaining seven matches, and hope Delhi lose their two with a score difference of seven or more, to make it through. They have their task cut out as the Pro Kabaddi caravan travels for their home leg in Panchkula on Friday.
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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2018 14:07:11 IST