Patna, February 18: Defending champions U Mumba and Telugu Titans have a good opportunity to avenge their first leg defeats at the hands of leaders Patna Pirates and second placed Bengal Warriors when they take on each other at the Pataliputra Sports Complex on the morrow. The Season 3 Star Sports Pro Kabaddi has thrown a few surprises and the last of this the fifth phase of the league should be no exception. As Patna Pirates in an impregnable position at the top, the fight is for the second to fourth positions.
It will be interesting to see which way the Bengal Warriors and Telugu Titans clash goes. The former need to win to remain second in the table and if U Mumba can pull off an upset then the positions will remain unaltered. But if they lose and the Telugu Titans win then the defending champions will be pushed to the fourth place below the team from Vizag and the top two maintaining their positions.
A win for the hosts will confirm their place in the semi-finals with 48 points even if they lose to Puneri Paltan today. The Bengal Warriors have collected 27, U Mumba has 25 and the Telugu Titans 22 followed by the Jaipur Pink Panthers with a tally of 20 points. The situation is quite complex.
Coming to the lip-smacking contest between the home team and U Mumba, first and foremost the visitors will be at full strength with the return of four of their players who did national duty in the South Asian Games. Anup Kumar will be back at the helm to guide his crew against the Patna Pirates in the grudge match. In the first leg it was a no show from the Mumbai defence despite a spirited display by Anup in attack with some help from Bhupender Singh.
The hosts were well served by Rajesh Mondal with a super raid early in the match that stunned the champions. Pardeep Narwal was their chief tormentor with his raiding and U Mumba had to face the ignominy of two all-outs in that big defeat by a margin of 14 points.
It will be a battle of wits between the two coaches, E Bhaskaran and Sanjeev Singh Baliyan. The former is experienced and was responsible in making his team champions and in the absence of Anup and others managed to register important wins against Puneri Paltan and Bengal Warriors with the help of veteran Rakesh Kumar. The Patna side should be thankful Manpreet for playing that role to perfection when his side was below strength.
However, Coach Sanjeev Kumar a veteran himself dropped Manpreet against Bengaluru Bulls a match they won after lots of uncertainty. That day their defence led by the otherwise most-reliable Sandeep Narwal failed them. Rakesh’s form and Anup’s return is a blessing for U Mumba. But how to select his first seven will be a headache for Bhaskaran. Fazel Atrachali the Iranian deserves a place and so does Rishank Devadiga solely on performance. The corners Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar select themselves.
After Sunil’s failures it is time for Patna to bring in Amit Hooda and stabilise the defence. What if Manpreet has to be benched? Who will control proceedings on court are questions Sanjeev Kumar will be worried with. So it will be the team with perfect man management and deployment that has the chance to steal a march over the other.
Bengal Warriors’ defence has failed them in the last match against the hosts. So much that Nilesh Shinde went without a point on that day. Bajirao Hodage was a bundle of nerves and in attack they were without the silent assassin Nitin Tomar. If he is back then Telugu Titans defence will have to work overtime to negate his threat besides dealing with the ever dangerous Jang Kun Lee.
Umesh Mhatre the all-rounder who came in as a substitute against U Mumba will be considered by their coach Pratap Shetty in the scheme of things as there has been a steep fall in form for Mahesh Goud. Shrikant Jadhav too was impressive against Mumbai and with a three day rest the Kolkatans will be fresh against Telugu Titans who also must have reflected on their last minute loss to the Jaipur Pink Panthers a couple of days ago.
The indifferent showing by Rahul Chaudhari, Captain Dharmaraj Cheralathan lacking in confidence, are factors which need immediate attention for Telugu Titans. Their defence is their main headache as it is not working in unison. Single-handed efforts from the likes of that brilliant all-rounder Meraj Sheykh won’t suffice. Team work has to be there and there won’t be a better advocate of that than their Coach Ramesh Bhendigiri.
The contest between two teams which have lost their earlier encounters will be worth watching as both want to get back into the business of winning to earn a semi-final slot.