New Delhi: Mumbai Maharathi outclassed Delhi Sultans 5-2 on the opening night of Pro Wrestling League season three at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Tuesday.
The league got off to a lukewarm start with a modest crowd turnout and top draw Sushil Kumar not making his tournament debut after the opposition blocked the 74kg category.
A handful of people who had come to watch the action at the Siri Fort Sports Complex were left disappointed after Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, representing Mumbai Maharathi, won the toss and took no time in blocking the 74kg category, in which Sushil was to compete for Delhi Sultans. In return, Sushil opted to block Odunaya of Nigeria, a formidable force in the 57-kg category.
The crowd numbers increased as the tie progressed but still more than half of the 3000 capacity arena was empty.
Rio Olympic Games bronze medallist for India, Sakshi Malik, played her role as captain of the Maharathis with elan, winning the crucial fourth point to put the contest beyond the Sultans reach. She trounced her compatriot Monia 18-2 in what proved to be walk in the park.
The two teams were locked 2-2 after four contests but Satender Malik edged out Hitender 7-6 to put the Maharathis ahead. Sakshi then walked into the stadium like a rock star and showed what she is all about.
She jumped into a 10-2 lead in the first period of the 62-kg bout and wrapped it up 18-2 to the delight of her fans.
Sushil's teammate, Sandeep Tomar, began on a winning note, picking up the first point of the tie. The 2017 Asian Indoor Games bronze medallist got the better of a fighting Andrey Yatsenko 14-9 in the 57-kg men's freestyle clash.
Tomar looked solid in the first period, racking up a 10-0 lead. But Yatsenko snatched 8 points with a brilliant move to raise a scare. But Tomar held on to win the match.
The Mumbai team asserted itself in the second match, with Seema beating Maroi Mezien of Tunisia in the 50-kg womens competition.
It was a defensive fight, with both not making any aggressive moves. Only one point was taken in the first period, by Seema; Seema won four more points in the next for a strategic 5-1 win.
The Sultans regained the lead, with Azerbaijan's Aslan Albvorov notching up a comprehensive 15-0 win over Satyawart Kadian in the 92-kg class. The 2017 World Championships bronze medalist was a class above the Indian who struggled all the way through.
Frances Cynthia Vescan promptly won the next one for Mumbai, beating Egypt's Samaramer Hamza in the 76-kg mens fight. She took it easily, conceding just one point to her 12.
With Sushil not stepping on the mat, the headline fight of the evening was between Rio Olympics 65kg champion Soslan Ramonov and reigning 61kg world champion Haji Aliyev. Ramonov won the battle 3-2.
After seven bouts, Mumbai Maharathi defeated Delhi Sultans 5-2 in the tie.
PWL CEO Sunil Yash Kalra felt the turnout would improve as the 18-day league progresses.
"I am sure there would have a lot more people if Sushil was competing. But his category was expectedly blocked by the opposition which is the beauty of this format," Kalra told PTI.
"Wrestling is a sport where you are never worried about the crowd support. It has a huge following. I am confident the turnout will only get bigger as the tournament goes on.
"There are an unprecedented number of world and Olympic medallists taking part in the league," he said, adding that 12 Olympic medallists and 24 world championship medallists are participating in the event.
Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was also present at the venue.
Updated Date: Jan 09, 2018 22:54 PM