Previewing the Pune leg of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi Season 3: Grudge matches on the cards
Pune will host the final leg of the first half of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi Season 3, and things aren't about to get quiet anytime soon. After enthralling the crowd in Vizag, Bengaluru and Kolkata, the Pro Kabaddi caravan moves to the cultural capital of Maharashtra, with the passionate Puneri fans all set for a spectacular treat.
The undefeated Patna Pirates top the table while the hosts lie on the other end of the spectrum, but as has been seen in the past, fortunes can change very quickly in this tournament.
Last season, the home team Puneri Paltan managed just a solitary win at home. But with a new-look squad, they would be hoping for a better show this time around. And with the country's best players having left for Guwahati to represent India at the South Asian Games, all the teams' bench strength will be tested, which could give an added advantage to the home team.
Puneri Paltan begin their home campaign against the indomitable Patna Pirates in the only match of Day 1 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex. The Pirates have won all their 5 matches this season while the Paltan lie in second last spot, although they have played just 3 games.
The second day will see Patna in action once again, this time against the league's whipping boys, Dabang Delhi. The Eagles face an uphill task against Patna as they will be without star raider Kashiling Adake, who has left to participate in the South Asian Games.
In the second match of the day, the home team take on Season 1 winners Jaipur Pink Panthers. If they manage a win over the Pink Panthers, Pune will go above them in the league table. But that's easier said than done, of course; Jaipur have been their usual consistent selves this season.
Paltan trio face former side
On the penultimate day of the Pune leg, Navneet Gautam's team will face off against a Telugu Titans side which would be weakened by the absence of Rahul Chaudhari and Sukesh Hegde. Having lost their top spot during the Kolkata leg, the Titans will be looking to resurrect their campaign against the Pink Panthers.
Defending champions U Mumba stand in the way of the home team in the second match of the day, but the visitors will be without the services of captain Anup Kumar who has gone on national duty. With the backing of the home crowd and the prospect of facing a weakened opposition, Puneri Paltan will be hoping to end their winless run against U Mumba.
The final day will see the surprise package of this season, Bengal Warriors, lock horns with the reigning champions. Nilesh Shinde has marshaled his troops well so far this season and with Jang Kun Lee in good form, the Warriors have their best chance to notch their first ever win against U Mumba.
Lastly, Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur and Somvir Shekhar will face their ex-team Bengaluru Bulls in what promises to be a hostile end to the Pune leg. The Paltan lie a spot below the Bulls right now, and the trio will be eager to get one over their former team.
After the culmination of the leg, the table will give a true indication of the favourites and the underdogs this season. With a host of exciting matches in store and precious table standings on the line, the Pune leg is definitely one to look out for.