Pro Kabaddi 2016 Season 4: Brittle defence leaves U Mumba red faced
It was deemed as the clash of winners in Mumbai as U Mumba took on Puneri Paltans in what has come to be known as the Maharashtra derby in Pro Kabaddi. However, truth be told, the only thing that put the team on an equal footing was the fact that both had won their first match of the season.
U Mumba's superior record against their Maharashtra neighbours, and in the tournament in general always makes them a bigger force than Puneri Paltan in Pro Kabaddi. Besides, after their clinical performance in their opening game against Jaipur Pink Panthers, everyone expected a similar performance from the season 2 champions.
But things turned out drastically different in the 40 minutes of Kabaddi that people witnessed at Dome@NSCI SPV Stadium complex. By the end of the second half, the score read 41-19 and shockingly in favour of Puneri Paltan.
Pune had not only registered their first victory against U Mumba in the 4 seasons but also inflicted the biggest defeat on the team. More than being a humiliating defeat, this defeat was worrying for anyone who has followed the team's performance in the past three seasons.
U Mumba's defence looked hollow and conceded point after point in the face of raids by Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chillar. Puneri Paltan deserves the credit for exposing it to a point where the champion team looked clueless and rattled. Within just ten minutes, U Mumba were all out twice after which all that they were left doing was catching up. The damage inflicted blunted the potent attack of the trio who had tormented Jaipur and it was only debutant Vikash Kumar who showed some mettle.
In a tournament that is more of a marathon than a sprint, and for a team that has earned a reputation for making strong comebacks, this loss could be easily forgotten as an aberration. But what worries is the chinks in the armour that seem to have developed in the Mumbai unit this season.
Before the tournament, all the teams were rejigged, thanks to the auctions. U Mumba did hold on to its core in the form of raiders Anup Kumar and Rishank Devadiga, but what hurt the mass exodus the most was its defence. Mohit Chillar, Surender Nada and Vishal Mane along with Iranian Fazel Atrachali had proved themselves irreplaceable in the first three seasons and it was always going to prove difficult for Mumbai to put up a similar star-studded defence again.
Captain Anup Kumar didn’t hold back and acknowledged the problem he and his management faces. He said after the defeat, “Our defence played a bit loose from the beginning of the match. Ajay is a good raider and he built momentum after his first three-point raid. I had told the media that we need to stop Ajay at the beginning itself.” He also went on to add, “Surjeet didn’t play well for us. We want to set up a better defence. There’s a problem with the combination. We will work it out before we leave for Jaipur.”
A loss, irrespective of the margin, is a loss at the end of the day. But when the team that is at the receiving end of the defeat is U Mumba, who before this had an enviable record of losing just 9 out of their 49 contests, the 41-19 scoreline will come as a shock.
The loss might also have taken off that veneer of invincibility that put so many opponents on the back foot even before their contest against the Black and Orange brigade began. In such a scenario, it will be interesting to see how the team regroups after one of the biggest upset that the tournament has seen. But after a defeat of such calamitous proportions, one is surely tempted to ask whether it is the beginning of the descent of the team that has thoroughly dominated the league in past three seasons.