In the sport of kabaddi, you often find moments of sheer individual brilliance that leave people gasping in disbelief, almost rejecting the idea of what they had just witnessed. One such event occurred at the iconic Dome@NSCI SVP Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday where unsuspecting fans and players were treated to a moment that would have made their jaws drop right down on the floor.
It was the 36th minute of the match and home team U Mumba were in control of proceedings with a four-point lead. They had five men on the mat and they had successfully managed to neutralise the threat of raider Sachin in the second half after he went off the mat having scored nine raid points. To force a way back into the match, Gujarat Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh looked towards his substitutes and decided to introduce the tall Mahendra Rajput into the game.
Rajput had a task and it was a big one. He had to deliver big if his team were to overturn their deficit. He went in to raid with purpose and sprinted from to end-to-end, striving to get a touch point. In that moment, Atrachali smelled blood. He saw Rajput running towards him and he had only one thought which was to wrap his arms around the raider’s thighs, get the point and take his team one point closer to a victory.
Atrachali attempted a double Thigh Hold on Rajput, momentarily stopping the tall raider in his tracks. Cover defender Rohit Rana joined his captain to stop the raider and so did Corner Vinod Kumar. Even raider Siddharth Desai got in on the act as it seemed that the team had collectively done enough to stop Rajput. But the raider twisted and turned, fought through the cluster of bodies, somehow managed to get his hand free, and used every inch of his massive wingspan to reach within millimetres of the midline. Raider Darshan Kadian realized how agonizingly close Rajput’s hand was and attempted to get it away from the line. But Rajput wasn’t to be denied. He got his hand down beyond the midline, getting a touch on all five players to inflict the All-Out and score seven points in a single raid for his side.
But apart from the obvious frenzy, what was it that Rajput did right to get his hand beyond the midline?
When Atrachali’s initial tackle hit Rajput, he smartly turned his body towards the midline and used his body weight to hit the mat and give himself an opportunity to get his hand close to the midline. While he stretched his upper body as much as he could, he managed to wiggle his ankle out of Rohit Rana’s grip, ensuring his forward progress wasn’t impeded. As soon as his torso hit the ground and men piled upon his body, he ensured that none of the players could get a hold of his hands which allowed him the opportunity to stretch his long hand to full capacity. When his initial attempt wasn’t enough to take his hand past the midline, he used his core strength to push forward and gain the necessary distance to get his hands past the midline.
It was a feat that required skill, strength, mat awareness, intelligence and composure to execute. And when all of it came together for Rajput, fans were left with a moment to remember.