Pro Kabaddi: Jaipur Pink Panthers plot Bengaluru Bulls' downfall
Home advantage, home turf and home support or fans are a few clichés used in sports to explain as to how teams thrive or depend on them to win. On most occasions, this comes true. But in season 2 of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi, this hasn’t helped any of the teams except U Mumba who won four out of four matches in the first leg at Mumbai. As the caravan moved to Kolkata, the Bengal Warriors won two, in Jaipur the Pink Panthers lost three and in Patna the Pirates were slightly better winning two and drawing one.
In Hyderabad, the Telugu Titans were involved in two draws, a win and a loss. Over to Delhi and Dabang Delhi too failed to draw advantage, losing to Kolkata and Jaipur. The margin against the latter was a whopping 30 points. On the last day, they simply wiped out Patna by 20 points, but that didn’t boost their chances of a play-off berth.
With this in mind, the Bengaluru Bulls, who had even beaten mighty Telugu Titans at Patna seemed to have a distinct upper hand against U Mumba in the opener and Jaipur next. But the home side failed to come out after that loss against Patna (28-30) in Delhi. They had to contend with the inconsistent form of Ajay Thakur, their ace raider. Their big-hearted captain Manjeet Chhillar was doing well both in attack and defence but experienced attacker Rajesh Mondal was found lacking, though he shouldered the burden of the do-or-die raids, now an important part of every team’s strategy.
Overall, the Bulls entered the seventh leg which was their home leg with 31 points in nine outings needing at least two wins to book a semi-final berth. A draw and a defeat or two by seven or less points would have helped them draw closer to 45 points the prevailing benchmark as Patna had a good chance mathematically to reach 45.
Jaipur, too, are in a position to collect more than that if they win all their remaining four matches. The second day at the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium was important for the hosts. But they lost marginally to Jaipur by two points which has put them in a tight corner.
They have fitness worries. Things are not falling in place as planned. The shoulder injury to Ashish Chhokar has compounded their problems. Their third choice raiders Rajesh Mondal, the tall bonus point expert Rakesh Narwal and Pradeep Narwal haven’t shown the confidence to raise the spirit of the team which is equally worrying. The Bulls have to win their last three matches.
Especially, the last one against Pune, which is the last match of the league stage, assumes large significance if they lose or draw one of their home matches against Delhi and Hyderabad. They have a psychological advantage though having beaten both of them convincingly in the first leg. That they have to fire as a team is the only solution.
Of the other contenders, the Panthers have slowly and stealthily stepped closer towards their goal than others. Their new strategy of using the ‘scorpion’ Jasvir to run down the clock with empty raids has stunned many. But this has been possible because the tall and freely moving Sonu Narwal is giving them enough raid points.
The cool and effective Kuldeep has put up an all-round display and so has Rajesh Narwal. Ran Singh moving to the left corner in place of the injured Navneet Gautam has suddenly strengthened their defence. His waist holds from behind may make a wrestler proud as he brings down the rival raider and pins him in no time. If Jaipur qualify then they are definitely the team to beat for the title.
Last but not least in the fray are the Patna Pirates. Their sudden swing in form have given nightmares to them and their fans. With Captain Rakesh Kumar mostly ruled out the onus is on young Sandeep Narwal their new leader. Ravi Dalal and Deepak Narwal the leading raiders will have their hands full. Gurvinder Singh who has shown odd flashes of brilliance needs to be more consistent in both the departments. Amit Kumar who was shaping well and Girish Ernak a Mumbai product have to raise their performance by a couple of notches for the Pirates. Patna are expected to win against Kolkata here but will they be able to edge Jaipur in Pune is the million dollar question.
If Bengaluru extricates itself from the current situation and beats Pune in the concluding tie of the league their chances look bright. Patna need to win all the matches meaning they have to slay the Panthers. They have done it before winning 29-23 in Jaipur’s home leg but that was more than three weeks ago. Jaipur have gone up from there and Patna too have overcome that morale shattering defeat (32-54) to Titans in Hyderabad by beating Bengaluru (30-28) in New Delhi.
The situation is very complex and tricky for anybody to stick out his neck and make a prediction. Yet it seems to be Jaipur and Bengaluru. They have the edge going by past reputation!