The opening day of the Chennai leg on Friday witnessed two exciting encounters. In the first match of the evening, Tamil Thalaivas’ late collapse allowed Puneri Paltan to take all points home (20-33), while in the second Gujarat Fortunegiants managed to hold their nerve to see off Patna Pirates (30-29).

As two heavyweights of both zones - Gujarat and Patna - met for the first time this season, it was sure to be a heavily contested affair. The main raiders, Patna’s Pardeep Narwal and Gujarat’s Sachin, were silenced though as the defence of both teams put their best foot forward.

At the post-match press conference, Gujarat coach Manpreet Singh was extremely pleased with the result. “Now all the teams are equal. Even today, we had the same situation as the last match and in kabaddi players tend to get pressurised in the closing minutes. We had been super tackled five times and that was a big disadvantage for the team but still both the departments played well and our plan of keeping Pardeep Narwal out as much as possible also worked. I am happy that the team has won the match and we are back at the top of our zone,” he said.

Chandran Ranjit was again the surprise element for Gujarat as his match-high 7 points took his team over the line on a day when the star raiders failed to find their feet. When asked about his contribution in the match, the coach said: “I am very happy with the way he is performing. Whatever we tell him, he does that without committing any mistakes. He is a very good player and I didn’t want to unveil him this soon but because of the situation I had to.”

Meanwhile, it was the defence of the defending champions that took centre stage on Friday as the lethal raiding unit was kept quiet by Gujarat. When asked for his views on the outcome of the match, Patna coach Ram Mehar Singh said: “Their defence is good so our plan was to tackle their raiders because their raiders aren’t that strong. Today the defence performed as per the strategy but the raiders couldn’t perform compared to their previous performances. But in the end, the defence also made some mistakes because of which the game shifted towards them. In the last raid, we should have tried for at least one point but we didn’t and that was a mistake. If we had got one point in the last raid, then there was a chance of a tie.”

In the opener of the Chennai leg earlier in the day, Deepak Hooda’s super raid in the last quarter led to Chennai’s disappointing collapse which eventually led to their defeat at the hands of Pune Paltan. The star of the match was undoubtedly Hooda as his super raid initiated back-to-back All-Outs on Chennai, which changed the whole course of the match. Hooda summed up the match for his team. “We had seen the last two matches of Tamil Thalaivas where they played very well. Both those matches were tight but they won both at the last moment. Our match was also very tight and in the first half it was neck-and-neck. If we hadn’t got that first All-Out, then the result of the match could have been either way. After that All-Out, our team’s confidence boosted and their confidence dropped. They started to fumble in both their departments and our defence was successful after that. I think we have successfully tackled 90 percent of the time after the first All-Out,” he said.