Patna Pirates led ably by Manpreet Singh with Rohit Kumar and Sandeep Narwal at the forefront of attack and defense sunk the hopes of defending champions and three times finalists U Mumba in a pulsating final at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium tonight. They beat back a late surge from their rivals to emerge 31-28 winners. Patna Pirates had established a 19-11 lead at the break which in the final analysis set U Mumba back in this ding-dong battle.
A do-or-die raid by substitute Deepak Narwal with the scores at 29-28 in favour of U Mumba tilted the scales for the last time in Patna Pirates’ favour. The two points including a bonus came as a result of Rakesh Kumar’s inability to check Deepak Narwal. Anup Kumar, the U Mumba captain, still had the last opportunity to redeem the situation but his desperate lunge to get D Suresh Kumar for a touch saw him go off the court and the Patna Pirates captured the title and a cash award of Rupees 1 crore as the stadium burst into a frenzy.
Anup Kumar started with a bonus with his first raid to give Mumbai a positive start but Patna Pirates were simply unstoppable thereafter as they inflicted an all-out over their rivals in the seventh minute to lead 10-2. The first salvo fired, Patna Pirates kept up the pressure through Rohit Kumar and substitute Rajesh Mondal. Brought in after they lost top raider of the Patna Pirates, Pardeep Narwal, to an ankle injury, the former, a do-or-die specialist came out successful three times. Rohit Kumar with a tally of seven gave his team what it wanted.
U Mumba known for their tight defense got its first tackle point in the 15th minute courtesy Mohit Chhillar which exhibited their inadequacy this night. Fazel Atrachali was nowhere near his best and that put an extra burden on the rest. To add to U Mumba’s mounting problems Rishank Devadiga fared poorly in the match drawing a blank after scoring his only point for the match in the 2nd minute.
U Mumba threw the last dice bringing on Shabeer Bappu Sharfudeen and the maverick responded well with a couple of good raids. It hastened the Patna all-out in the 34th minute. The champions outscored their opponents in a period of ten minutes scoring 14 to 7 to close in at 25-26 by the 34th minute.
Anup Kumar fought like a true general as he took the onus of raiding on his shoulders. He scored four to take his tally to eight points. But in his anxiety the normally cool Anup Kumar got self out twice. Surender Nada who substituted Fazel Atrachali kept his side’s hopes floating. And as Mohit Chhillar with Jeeva Kumar also started getting the blocks and holds right it spread panic in the Patna ranks.
The script for the thriller was just about unfolding with five minutes left. It would have been anybody’s match as Patna had Sandeep Narwal and Rohit Kumar warming the bench. But U Mumba’s reluctance to go for the slow moving Manpreet Singh probably cost them the match.
Finally the side that kept its cool won and the story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the masterstroke played by Sanjiv Kumar Baliyan the Patna coach. He chose the right man for the job and Deepak Narwal who must have been frustrated for sitting out for almost the full season proved his worth by playing that crucial trick on U Mumba.