Busting the Myth: Gujarat Fortunegiants aren’t just about the defence
‘Attack wins you games, defence win you titles’
This quote by former football manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been proved correct on a lot of occasions. However, that does not mean one ignores the attack completely. If there is one sport where that quote no longer holds true, it is kabaddi.
The advent of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) in 2014 brought with it a change in the rules of the sport in order to attract more crowds and make kabaddi an exciting sport. Criticised earlier for being too defensive, kabaddi got a lifeline with the do-or-die raid in the PKL. This little tweak in the rule has changed the tempo of the game, adding more emphasis on raiding and resulted in players taking more risks.
From Season 1 to Season 4, all the winners have been defensively solid teams with exemplary raiders. Season 1 winners Jaipur Pink Panthers had the dynamic Maninder Singh while wily Anup Kumar led U Mumba to the title the following season and young Pardeep Narwal, the find of the league, helped Patna Pirates to back to back titles in Seasons 3 and 4. Although all these teams had solid defensive units, they wouldn’t have won the titles without their star raiders.
After a complete overhaul of the league thanks to the formation of 4 new teams, it is anyone’s guess who will win the league.
A look at Gujarat Fortunegiants’ squad
One team, however, that was unfairly criticised ahead of the season was Gujarat Fortunegiants. Post the auction, the general perception of Gujarat Fortunegiants was that their team is very defence-heavy while their raiding department was completely disregarded, mainly due to the lack of big names.
The critics could be forgiven for thinking Gujarat Fortunegiants is only about the defence as they have one of the best defensive units.Defenders Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar along with all-rounder Rohit Gulia complement the Iranian duo of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani perfectly. This well-rounded defence sits at the top of the defensive charts with 83 tackle points in 9 matches, 5 ahead of second placed Telugu Titans, who have played an extra match.
However, what has flown under the radar, and, criminally, still does, is their attacking department. Despite the lack of a ‘big name’ like Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal, Rohit Kumar and the likes, the Gujarat Fortunegiants’ raiding unit is one of the most complete in the league.
In Captain Sukesh Hegde, the team members have the perfect role model as the Mangalorean strikes an ideal balance between slowing the game down and taking risks. The 27-year-old, who has been an ever present in the PKL, has showed his leadership quality by nurturing the youngsters well so far.
Debutant Sachin Tanwarhas taken the league by storm with his powerful performances in Season 5. The 18-year-old was an unknown quantity before Gujarat snapped him up in the auction and he has taken over as the lead raider for the team and helped them to the top of Zone A. With 60 points in 9 matches, including a ‘Super 10’, Sachin has allowed Sukesh Hegde to concentrate on leading the team while allowing other raiders to take their time to settle in the matches.
Another youngster who used the Ahmedabad leg to announce himself to the league is Rohit Gulia. The 19-year-old is an all-rounder by trade and has helped the team out in pivotal moments in both attack as well as defence with 17 raid points and 3 tackle points in 8 matches.
Without the pressure of carrying the team on his back, like he had at Bengal Warriors, Mahendra Singh Rajput has shown his full arsenal of moves and been able to execute them according to plan. Coach Manpreet Singh has kept the Maharashtrian hungry by keeping him on the bench and unleashing him in the second half of matches, where he has, more often than not, inflicted misery on the opponents.
Moving further into the bench, we get the likes of Amit Rathi, Pawan Sehrawat and Rakesh Narwal. Although Amit Rathi hasn’t played much in Season 5, his experience in the PKL will definitely help the team in the later stages. On the other hand, young raiders Pawan Sehrawatand Rakesh Narwal are just waiting to pounce on their chance and can prove to be useful assets later in the season.
Raiding Units: Gujarat Fortunegiantsvs the Rest of the PKL
Comparing Gujarat Fortunegiants to the other teams would be an accurate barometer of how they stack up against the very best and give us a holistic view to the fans. Here’s a look at the raiding table of PKL teams:
With an average of 14.2 raid points per match, it would be foolhardy to write off Gujarat Fortunegiants’ raiding department as it accounts for 50% of their overall points with the rest coming from tackle and all-out points.
Bengaluru Bulls’ and U Mumba’s raiding departments are considered to be two of the best raiding units in the league. The two average 15 and 16.3 raid points per match respectively, which is not so far from Gujarat’s average of 14.2 raid points per match. Season 1 winners Jaipur Pink Panthers boast of the likes of Selvamani K and Indian internationals Manjeet Chhillar and Jasvir Singh, but they still average a lowly 12.2 raid points per match.
Another way to gauge a team’s raiders as a whole is to look at the number of super raids executed by the team. In the same metric, Gujarat Fortunegiants can be found at the second spot in the table with the team’s raiders having completed 3 super raids. Despite playing just 5 matches, Mahendra Singh Rajput has conjured up 2 super raids to be tied second in the individual table along with Season 4 MVP PardeepNarwal.
In Match No. 31 of Season 5 of the PKL, the find of the season so far, Sachin Tanwar, scored 11 points against Telugu Titans to help his team to a 29-19 win at home. This was the youngster’s first Super 10 of his career, which helped him etch his name along the players to have scored 10 or more raid points in a single match. He is also the youngest player in the list to complete a Super 10 this season.
What’s in store for the season ahead?
Gujarat Fortunegiants find themselves at the top of Zone A, having played 10 out of their 22 matches. Although other teams have played lesser matches, their points per game are the highest in their Zone and that holds them in good stead going into the second half of the tournament.
The points scored by team have been split 50:50 between the defence and the attack so far. Hence, it makes little sense to call them one of the strongest defensive teams, yet refuse to acknowledge the team’s raiding prowess. Having performed spectacularly in the first 10 matches, Gujarat Fortunegiants have shown they can match, if not outperform, every team in the league in the raiding department.
So, it is safe to say that Gujarat’s players have backed Coach Manpreet Singh’s claim of his team having one of the best raiding combinations in the league.
Gujarat Fortunegiants are the perfect epitome of the saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.