Things could not have gone any better for the Pune Marathas as they were crowned champions of the EFLI in 2012. The second city of Maharashtra became the first team in history to lay its hands on the coveted trophy, defeating the Delhi Defenders 6-0 in the final. The Marathas showed true grit and determination to adapt to a whole new game and master the skills better than anyone else in the league. Looking back, the Marathas will have a lot of fond memories of the tournament and now let us look back to see what made the Marathas the irrepressible force they were last season.
Dinesh Kumar was entrusted with responsibility of being the captain of the ship for the Marathas on offense and he didn’t disappoint. By most measures, last season’s iteration of Kumar’s ability in the backfield was very good. With him as the playmaker, the Marathas accounted for the second best passing offense in the league in terms of total yardage. Yet, for all the superlatives thrown his way, Kumar still had room for improvement, especially when it came to minimizing turnovers.
Very few covered more ground than the Marathas’ wide receivers. The quartet of Dinesh, Pandhare, Rahul and Thiyagarjan set the standards in the league with 5 touchdown catches and 588 yards amongst them. Dinesh in fact finished 4th in overall yards accumulated for receivers in the league.
The Marathas attack was a well-balanced one. When Dinesh Kumar wasn’t favouring his chances in the passing game, they ran the ball and with some fervour too. The performances of Rahul, Rathod and Dinesh Kumar himself were at the heart of everything that the Marathas did on offense. It was in fact Rahul’s strong running that made the difference in the championship game against the Defenders. Their total accumulated yards on rushing only comes up short to the records set by the Warhawks and the Defenders.
While the Marathas will have the championship medals to boast, there will still be room for improvement for the Pune outfit, especially on the turnovers side. Pune committed 6 turnovers on fumbles while forcing only one fumble themselves.
They say offense wins you games, defense wins you championships. The Pune Marathas certainly boasted of a defense that a champion can be proud of. The stats of interceptions and sacks alone don’t quite reflect the work that both the D-Line as well as the secondary put together. The defense came good when the team needed and in the final they were pitch perfect. The Marathas’ defense was in a dream run in the final when it annihilated the Defenders attack on the way to a shutout. In their 8 games, the Marathas conceded only 62 points at a mere 7.75 points per game with two shutouts; a mark which was only bettered by Delhi.
When it came to return on special teams, the Marathas found a couple of new stars. Sachin Rathod along with Akhsay Shinde took up the mantle on returns for the team. The duo combined for 196 yards on just 7 attempted returns to put the team in a commanding position on the field to start their offense.
Anish Dharmadhikari was a star in his own right. In a league where points are hard to come by, the kicker was able to add 19 points to the cause of the Marathas. While his punting average comes only second to Kolkata’s Rajib Mondal; his record in terms of both points for a kicker as well as the longest kick completed for a field goal stands as testament to his pedigree as a kicker.
The Marathas may have written their names into EFLI history in the first season, but in the second season they may have to re-write it again. As the champions, they will become the hunted as the rest of the teams will look to knock them over. But they have the foundation in place to survive that and possibly challenge again for the title come season two.