The quarterfinals stage of the 65th Senior National Kabaddi Championships kicked off at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad with a lot of stars pitted against each other that promised to cater to every fan's desire of watching top-flight Kabaddi.
Karnataka faced off against a strong Uttarakhand side, led by Pardeep Narwal for the first quarterfinal. Just a few minutes into the game, Prashant Rai's immaculate raiding and understanding of the game put Karnataka into the driver's seat with an early all-out. A cat and mouse game ensued but a super raid from skipper Sukesh Hegde witnessed Karnataka inflict another all-out on Uttarakhand while Prashant Rai motored his way to a Super-10 just a few raids later.
A third all-out only compounded more misery onto Uttarakhand as they went into the break with a 33-14 deficit only to come back to the same storyline as Rai went on a rampage yet again which saw him collect 20 points as Karnataka registered a facile 51-31 win in the end, a huge margin which was an indication of Pardeep Narwal's inefficiency on the day.
In the second quarterfinal, Rahul Chaudhari's Uttar Pradesh took on Rishank Devadiga's Maharashtra and the UP captain started strong with three points in a row before Maharashtra's defence came to the party, inflicting three all-outs in a row to stem Rahul's free flow of points.
Soon enough, Maharashtra inflicted an all-out on UP, the first in the game by pinning down the final man on UP's mat to strengthen their lead. Soon enough, the two captains tried to go one up on each other but the spotlight fell on the Maharashtra defence that saw them take a 22-15 lead at half-time. Rituraj, who was the lynchpin of the Maharashtra defence, started off the second half in fine fashion, picking up vital tackle points before some quick-fire raiding saw both teams collect all-out points in just a matter of ten raids.
However, a four-point super raid from Nitin Madane was the icing on the cake which dealt a huge blow to UP following which they could only collect two points in the rest of the game to fall to a heartbreaking 36-44 loss in the end.
In the highly anticipated clash featuring Haryana and Rajasthan, the former started with a galaxy of stars, a starting seven with each player having played a huge role in the Pro Kabaddi League that could have well played out as a fantasy team.
Ex-Indian skipper Anup Kumar started off well, collecting the first point of the day and then added two more in his next raid but soon enough, an improved all-round performance from Rajasthan, led by the effervescent youngster Sachin saw Rajasthan take an early lead which was only closed out by the experienced stars in the Haryana setup as the first half scoreline read 15-13 in favour of Haryana.
In the second half, the Rajasthan defence sprang to life after a flurry of points from Deepak Hooda that saw them regain the lead only to see the lead sway in the form of a pendulum for the next couple of minutes. With only a little more than two minutes left on the clock, veteran Manjeet Chhillar brought all his experience into play as he collected two raid points before he trapped the Rajasthan raider with just 30 seconds left on the clock which gave Haryana the lead that effectively sealed the game 31-29 in their favour.
The last quarter-final clash between Railways and Services started off with some fireworks as seasoned raider Rohit Baliyan picked up a 'Super Raid' in the opening raid but soon enough, Services took the lead with four points in a row. Mohit Chhillar made his presence felt with a super tackle but his effort was overshadowed by Nitin Tomar's raid that aided Services to an all-out early in the game.
After back to back points, a herculean effort from Vikas Jaglan that included a bonus point and two touches brought back two Services men on the mat but his effort went in vain as Railways wiped out the three men with little fuss to inflict an all-out on Services. In the final moments of the first half, Mohit Chhillar's proficiency came to the fore as he picked up a high-5 in Railways' lead of 21-18 at half-time.
Services enjoyed a fairytale start to the second half with an all-out in just under three minutes that saw them enjoy a six-point lead which was thwarted by a super raid from the Railways a couple of minutes later. However, Services did well to gain back the lead even though Railways' substitute Pawan Kumar held fort at the other end.
With less than ten minutes left on the clock, Monu Goyat cleaned up the two men left on the mat to inflict an all-out on Railways from which they could not recover as Rohit Gulia's super raid came in a little too late that saw Services claim a spot in the semifinals with a 51-40 win when the final whistle was blown to signal full-time.
Here are the final scores:
Q1: Karnataka 51-31 Uttarakhand
Q2: Maharashtra 44-36 Uttar Pradesh
Q3: Haryana 31-29 Rajasthan
Q4: Services 51-40 Railways