There will be lot of spills and thrills as the first leg of the Seson 3 Star Sports Pro Kabaddi draws to a close. We have already witnessed one heart stopping encounter between U Mumba and Bengaluru Bulls that was decided in the last minute and two equally nail-biting clashes that ended in a draw with the hosts Puneri Paltan being involved in both.
A far below strength U Mumba the defending champions pulled off the unbelievable with a 29-28 win and Puneri Paltan without Deepak Hooda and Surjeet managed to hold a slightly depleted Patna Pirates and Jaipur Pink Panthers 30-30 and 32-32. Well they had an opportunity to force a result but thought it wise to bag the three points each for the draw.
With the fate of the Jaipur Pink Panthers-Telugu Titans and Puneri Paltan-U Mumba matches yet unknown it will be interesting to see what is in store tomorrow when the hosts face Bengaluru Bulls and U Mumba clash with the Bengal Warriors in important matches that will decide the final standings in the first leg.
In this phase at Pune we have seen the captains playing an important role. Be it Manpreet of the Patna Pirates or Rakesh Kumar of U Mumba, these lions in the winter of their careers haven’t exactly roared like the one in his prime Manjeet Chhillar, but they have had an overwhelming influence on their mates whom they have cajoled and coaxed to get the best out of them. Only Navneet Gautam an unusually over-rated player leading the Jaipur Pink Panthers has failed to lead by example and had to cede his place when his team played the hosts. And tomorrow too we will see the captains playing a defining role for their teams.
It will be a battle of wits for Rakesh to match his counterpart Nilesh Shinde who has led the Bengal warriors admirably this season. The down to earth Nilesh was also candid enough to admit his mistakes which led to that sole defeat to the leaders Patna Pirates on home soil. Such instances of accepting mistakes definitely raise one’s esteem amongst his mates and when they face U Mumba tomorrow Nilesh will get all the support from his boys.
Bengal Warriors would love to beat the defending champions as they will then be finishing with a very satisfactory tally of 31 points. However, they have never beaten the top side in four outings so far and barring one where the margin was a mere four points the other three saw U Mumba coast home comfortably.
So the Kolkata outfit’s work is cut out. To achieve their objective, they will have to put up a solid defence knowing well that their rivals don’t have Anup Kumar their star raider and captain cool. The rival defence is also far below strength. The dreaded left and right corner duo of Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar too is not there. Vishal Mane can single-handedly deal with any attacker’s absence is also a big relief. All these factors will make it easy for the Kolkatans but the question is how difficult the Bengaluru Bulls found it out to be in the end?
That morale boosting win will help transform the U Mumba side into a ferocious unit and even in case they lose the earlier match to Puneri Paltan they might be more determined to finish on a winning note to at least finish with 20 points, a tally that will keep them in the hunt for the knockout stage. Rakesh will try to ensure that Shabeer Bapu Sharfudeen, Rishank Devadiga, K Prapanjan and Bhupinder come into their own to make early inroads and negate the threat of rival defenders Nilesh, Bajirao Hodage and Girish Ernak. The deciding edge in this match should be provided by Korean Jang Kun Lee and Mahesh Goud in attack for the Kolkatans.
Pune have won only once against the Bengaluru Bulls and having a former insider Manjeet Chhillar in their ranks can plot the downfall of their rivals. Manjeet has amply demonstrated that he has the capability to lead his side into the play-offs. His team has also discovered a new raider in Surendra but their defence is yet to settle down barring Manjeet who exudes confidence.
There was no reason why they shouldn’t have beaten the Jaipur Pink Panthers who are playing below par. Defenders Somvir Shekhar and Prashant Chavan need to combine and stop rival attacker Surjeet Narwal from scoring points as rival coach Randhir Singh may not repeat the folly of asking Surjeet to play negatively to run down the clock. A win for Bengaluru may not be that productive except for raising their tally to 16 points which is not a launch pad to gain a play-off berth for sure.