The league stage of VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5 is done and dusted and teams now look ahead to the playoffs. It was a battle between three of the best defensive line-ups in Zone A as Gujarat Fortunegiants, Puneri Paltan and Haryana Steelers showed how important a good combination of tacklers is in a kabaddi team. In the end, Gujarat beat Pune in the last game of the league stage to ensure a first-place finish in the zone. Here is a look at how the teams from Zone A made their way to the play-offs.
Debutants Gujarat Fortunegiants dominated their zone by emerging as the only team in the entire season to remain unbeaten in their home leg. Haryana Steelers, Jaipur Pink Panthers and Tamil Thalaivas were the only teams who managed to beat the mighty Fortunegiants. In fact, Haryana beat Gujarat twice and one match between them ended in a tie. The rest of the teams were unable to overcome the defensive combination of two Iranian corners Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani, eventually being overawed by the team from Ahmedabad. Gujarat started the season with some relatively unknown names in offence but coach Manpreet Singh’s strategy of banking on fresh faces paid off for them and raiders like Sachin, Rohit Gulia and Chandran Ranjit took the stage by storm. Gujarat enter the playoffs as firm favourites. It will take something special from the other teams to end Gujarat’s domination. They play Bengal Warriors in Qualifier 1 on Tuesday.
Biggest Victory: 44-20 vs Puneri Paltan
Top raider: Sachin (139 raid points)
Top defender: Abozar Mighani (60 tackle points)
Puneri Paltan looked strong contenders for topping Zone A till the end but they faced three losses in their three games against Gujarat which gave the latter the advantage in the zone. However, Pune were definitely the team with one of the best overall combinations in the league with players like Rajesh Mondal, Sandeep Narwal and captain Deepak Hooda contributing points in both attack and defence. They relied heavily on their team’s all-rounders which gave their team a balance which a lot of other teams lacked. The Paltan also showcased an aggressive brand of kabaddi and were always looking to exploit the weak links in their opposition. They will be playing U.P. Yoddha in the first eliminator on Monday and will start as favourites in the contest based on their current form.
Biggest Victory: 38-15 vs Jaipur Pink Panthers
Top raider: Deepak Hooda (154 raid points)
Top defender: Girish Maruti Ernak (55 tackle points)
On the back of the most successful defender in the league so far, Surender Nada, Haryana Steelers made their way to the third spot in Zone A. They were the only team to consistently offer resistance to Gujarat’s charge in their zone and emerged as the first team to beat them on two separate occasions. The Haryana campaign ran into some troubled waters in their home leg where they lost their star raider Vikas Kandola to an injury and were forced to finish the league stage of the competition without him. However, they found enough firepower among their ranks in Wazir Singh, Deepak Kumar Dahiya and Prashanth Kumar Rai to keep them afloat. The trio made sure the team had at least one raider who clicked on the mat in every game. It is this ability of the Steelers to come up with game-winning performances in the hour of need which has held them in good stead. They will next face the strong attack force of Patna Pirates led by the league’s top raider Pardeep Narwal in the second eliminator.
Biggest victory: 42-24 vs Dabang Delhi K.C.
Top raider: Wazir Singh (104 raid points)
Top defender: Surender Nada (79 tackle points)