With a stunning 24-22 win over home side Bengaluru Bulls, Jaipur Pink Panthers reached the top of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi Season 4 table. Defender Amit Hooda blunted Season 3 MVP Rohit Kumar single-handedly while Jasvir Singh top scored with 5 points and dictated the tempo of the game.
“I want to congratulate not just the players, but everyone connected to us. I want to thank our fans, who have blessed us throughout and it is due to your blessings that we have reached the top spot,” said Pink Panthers captain Jasvir Singh after the win.
Jaipur’s strength lies in their raiding department
Young raider Ajay Kumar got the team out of troublesome situations plenty of times by returning successfully from do or die raids on a couple of occasions. The smiling assassin, as Jasvir is fondly called, lauded him for his efforts and said that the 3 points the 22-year-old earned helped the Pink Panthers close out the win.
The 32-year-old said, “He (Ajay) is playing really, really well. On most occasions, we send him in the do or die raids and that shows how important he is to the team. I hope he not only continues this form, but gets even better.”
“This season, the team is very strong as we can all see. Last time around, too, we had a strong team, but were unfortunate with injuries. This season, we have Shabeer (Bappu), Ajay (Kumar), and other youngsters, along with me and Rajesh (Narwal) and that shows the depth in the raiding department,” Jasvir elaborated when asked about the strong raiding department of the team.
After winning the inaugural season, Jaipur Pink Panthers went into a shell and failed to qualify for the semis in their previous 2 attempts, which was largely due to injuries. This time around, they sit at the top of the table and look set to repeat Season 1’s heroics.
“Last season, a lot of our players suffered injury – around 6-7, so we fell short, but right now, we are playing well. Wins and losses are part of the sport of kabaddi. We are playing with our heart and have the blessings of the almighty. We won the trophy in the first season and we hope to achieve the same this time around too,” explained Jasvir.
How I stopped Rohit Kumar: Amit Hooda
The star defender of the match, Amit Hooda, thanked coach Balwan Singh as it was his advice that helped him complete the super tackle on Rohit, which turned the tide in his team’s favour.
“Balwan Sir told us not to give Rohit any space and to tackle him with power, and I listened to his advice and was successful against Rohit in the match,” recalled Amit.
The 20-year-old was extremely aggressive during the match, a stark contrast to the smile he was sporting during the post-match press conference. When quizzed whether he always plays angry, Amit said that he is a different person on the mat and a completely different character off it.
“Kabaddi is a very aggressive sport and if you don’t have the necessary aggression, you won’t be able to stop the raiders,” said the Pink Panthers left corner. “I am a mellow person off the field though, but once I step on the mat, I channel my aggression in the right way.”
With Jaipur leading by a solitary point with just 2 minutes left in the match, the coach called a time out and changed the strategy. He loaded his left side with defenders while exposing the right side due to the fact that Rohit Kumar likes to raid on the opponent’s left side. The strategy worked wonders as the team sealed out a 2-point win thanks to coach Balwan’s inputs.
“The coach and Pankaj Sir made a plan for us in the final timeout and we executed it. Despite playing the game, the players don’t have as much knowledge as the coach, who knows everything,” said Jasvir. “Sitting on the touchline, he chalked out a plan for us and asked us to follow it in the final time out. It turned out to be the right move and we ended up on the winning side.”
We are confident of beating U Mumba: Jasvir
This season, Jaipur have lost only 2 matches, with one of them coming against tonight’s opponents – U Mumba. Last time when they faced each other in the Pune Leg, Rakesh Kumar, with 12 points, helped the 3-time finalists hand the Season 1 winners a 36-34 loss. Jasvir, however, refused to pinpoint any particular player from the Season 2 winners and highlighted the squad strength of U Mumba, insisting they will have to be at their best to take revenge.
“I respect Rakesh Kumar a lot. He is an Arjuna awardee and has won a plethora of awards. But, U Mumba is not a one-man team. All of their players are very good and we will give our best. We aim to take revenge for the loss they inflicted on us early in the campaign and feel confident that we can do it,” the Jaipur Pink Panthers captain promised while signing off.
Jaipur Pink Panthers face U Mumba tonight at 8 pm at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.