64th Kabaddi Nationals: Haryana defeat Railways in a thriller to enter the finals
Coming into the business end of the tournament with five back-to-back wins, the Anup Kumar led Haryana outfit were up to the mark in the semi-finals as well, against a star-studded Railways team defeating them 30-27, despite being on the back foot for most of the encounter.
The Railways who were quite a perfect amalgamation of youth and experience with Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Mohit Chhillar, Rajesh Mondal and Surender Singh amongst their ranks, gave a tough, intriguing and thrilling contest to the Indian captain’s home team in a match that went down to the wire.
Rajesh Mondal began the raid proceedings in the first half but failed to return to his half before the end of 30 seconds to award the first points to Haryana. It was Anup Kumar who then drew first blood with an easy, successful raid to make it 2-0.
The 3rd minute saw Railways’ Surender Singh send Anup Kumar off to the bench on a do-or-die raid but it was Yogesh Hooda who was quick enough to make amends in the very next raid, to seek the revival of Captain Cool, Anup Kumar, back on the mat. At the end of five minutes, it was Haryana who led the score board with 3 points to 1.
It was the defence which then came into its own, with both teams claiming successful tackles courtesy of Rajesh Narwal for Haryana and Cheralathan with an ankle hold for the Railways. The 7th minute saw a stunning effort from Sunil Jaipal who ripped the Haryana defence apart on a super raid before Rajesh Mondal reduced them to two men. But when trouble comes calling, Anup Kumar rises to the occasion and he seemed to be unstoppable when he sneaked in two raid points for his team in the 9th minute to put his team in the lead, 6-7.
Haryana continued their surge, by pinning down the lethal Rajesh Mondal on a tackle but the Railways team returned the favour by stopping Yogesh Hooda in his tracks in a do-or-die raid in the 12th minute.
Mohit Chhillar showcased his prowess in the right corner for the Railways when he effected a superb solo tackle in the 15th minute and then Bhola made a rampant run to claim a Super Raid to put his team in the lead. Reduced to one man, the Haryana team suffered the first ALL-OUT of the match in the 16th minute to trail by 14 points to 10.
Anup, then, performed like a man possessed to claim two crucial raid points off consecutive raids before the all-rounder Rajesh Narwal carried forward the momentum and grabbed two points owing to a defensive lapse from the Railways in the 18th minute to rest the scoreline at 16-14.
HALF TIME: Indian Railways 16-14 Haryana
The second half began with players from both teams, Yogesh Hooda for Haryana and Sunil Jaipal for the Railways perishing to the respective rival defensive holds, and the score resting at 17-15 at the end of 25 minutes. Playing on the third raid seemed to be the strategy for the two teams, and unsuccessful do-or-die attempts seemed to script the story of the match.
The 28th minute saw Anup Kumar being tackled down in his next foray, and then Rajesh Mondal make a silly mistake to run into the lobbies without a touch which brought the score to 19-17.
A tenacious body block akin to a bull was executed by Sandeep Narwal to not only stop Sunil Jaipal on his raid, bringing the score to 20-18 but more importantly to revive Anup Kumar. A relentless Yogesh Hooda then claimed a Super Raid for Haryana to expose the fragility of the Railways defence.
On the next raid, the defence made no mistake and inflicted an ALL-OUT in the 34th minute to lead by 4 points, 21-25.
However, great efforts from the Railways’ raiders saw them reducing the points deficit quickly to just lag behind by two points at the end of 36 minutes. Sandeep Narwal played true to his stature when he pinned down Rajesh Mondal on a do-or-die raid in the 38th minute to take the score to 25-29 but then committed a rare error in the next minute to gift a point to Surender Singh on a raid off a loose hold. The defence, however, learnt their lesson, and put in an effective tackle to maintain a three-point lead until the end of the match, and secure a victory.
FULL TIME: Indian Railways 27-30 Haryana
Haryana brought the humdinger to a close in their favour and entered the finals of the Nationals, much to their liking. They will play the penultimate encounter against the winners of the second semi-final between Maharashtra and Services.