The Mumbai Gladiators will be looking forward to build on the successes of the first and look to impress upon their new owners. With the Booty family taking over the team this season, they would also be hoping that it signals the dawn of a new era for the Mumbaikars.
In order to build for the future, it’s of paramount importance that you know your past. So, let’s look at what history entrails the team from Mumbai.
The Offense was where the Gladiators failed to make their presence felt. Although Mumbai went on to win 4 of their 6 games in the inaugural season in the EFLI, the team from the West coast could tally an average of 11.2 points per game.
Viraj Kelekar emerged as one of the most capable players in the Gladiators’ rank on offense. Kelekar, while not being amongst the elites in the league at the quarter-back position, was Mumbai’s best bet in the aerial game. The 5’10” wiry framed QB was not only the cornerstone of their passing game, but also the one to stack up the most yards while running the ball. Where Kelekar and Mumbai in general failed however was success in the red-zone.
The other notables in the Mumbai ranks on offense were John Marcus and Ashutosh Rathod. While Marcus found success in the limited number of carries that he had, Rathod shared quarter-back (though with not much success) responsibilities with Kelekar amassing a rushing touchdown in the process.
In Nitin Deshmukh, Mumbai found an elite level player in the EFLI. The sturdily built 6’4” wide receiver, nicknamed “Megatron”, was amongst the best in his ranks out wide. Deshmukh completed 55% (with an impressive average of 17.1 yards/catch) of the plays that was targeted at him, including one in the end-zone. Even when he was given the responsibility of running the ball, he did with some success, as he ran for 57 yards in his solitary attempt on the ground.
Besides Deshmukh it was Akshay Mohite who kept the passing game ticking along, coming up with a completion rate of 59%, though not making up any significant yards on his catches.
One of the reasons for Mumbai’s struggles was also the frequent fumbles that crept into their game. Though they managed to recover the fumbles on 4 occasions, they played a disruptive part in the already struggling offensive schemes.
While the offense struggled, it was their defense that made sure that the Gladiators won their fair share of games. While not putting up gaudy individual numbers as visible through their defensive stats, the Gladiators were a formidable unit when it came to defensive duties.
In the six games that the Gladiators played they allowed their opponents to average only 7.5 points per game, which includes a shutout against the formidable Bangalore Warhawks.
Mohd Shemna and Rehmuddin Shaikh each recorded an interception each. DB Rehmuddin Shaikh was also able to get a sack to his name as well.
It’s hard to find a player even in the NFL who can be a positive for the team in three areas. But here he is again; Nitin Deshmukh was not only one of the leaders in receiving and rushing corps, but he was their first option for the Gladiatiors when came to kicking and punting as well. While the sample size for Deshmukh’s kicking was too small to put a judgement out, his punting was below the league average.
When it came to returns the familiar name of Rehmuddin Shaikh again pops. The DB along with Running Back John Marcus shared the lion’s share of the load when it came to returning.
The first season didn’t quite end on the note that the Gladiators would have liked to; they had a heartbreaking loss in the final game that prevented them from making the semis. However, when they look back at the season, there were lots of positives to be taken forward and a lot of lessons learnt. The Gladiators established themselves as one of the premier defensive teams in the league. With further sharpening of the skills (which is sure to happen) and the presence of an elite level player in Deshmukh and linebacker Preetesh Balyaya, it shouldn’t be too long before Mumbai makes its mark on the offensive side of things as well.Published 30 Apr 2014, 02:38 IST