Patna, February 15: After the good show, it is time for the top four in the Season 3 of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League to consolidate the gains of the first leg. Leaders Patna Pirates have been merciless as well as consistent in their showing and would be planning and hoping to maintain the unbeaten run with home support. Sandeep Narwal and Rohit who give them that cutting edge in defence as well as offence will be back and with them available they take on Bengal Warriors in the very first tie. This should be a mouth-watering contest as the visitors will be trying to regroup after the loss to a far below-strength U Mumba in the last match of the first leg at Pune.
At Pune, the Bengal Warriors defence performed below their potential and U Mumba also resisted the temptation of tackling Nitin Tomar to minimise the risk of conceding points. Will the Patna Pirates take a cue from the defending champions to render the Kolkata attack toothless? Bengal Warriors on their part would certainly gloss over the Nitin factor and come out with a plan to make their attack sharp. But Mahesh Goud’s failure to click as the second raider after some initial success has hit them badly. They may try Mahendra Rajput who has delivered as a substitute but the tall, slow moving Mahendra has limitations too.
With Sandeep back the Patna Pirates defence will be an impregnable fortress. It will make life difficult for Nitin, Mahesh, Mahendra and even the mercurial Jang Kun Lee. How the visitors exploit the talent of Jang to their advantage early in the match will decide which way the wind would blow. In Kolkata the wind favoured the Patna Pirates as the well set defence of their rivals consisting of Nilesh, BajiraoHodage and Girish Ernak failed to click with a repeat of the story in Pune.
They beat their opponents 36-31 with Rohit Kumar, and the Narwals, Sandeep and Pradeep were the architects of that win. In the absence of the first two, Deepak Narwal played an important role in Pune to now stake a claim for a permanent slot in the first seven. Sanjeev Baliyan their coach will definitely have to scratch his head while selecting the team.
After the two losses, especially the one against U Mumba by a margin of 11 points Bengal Warriors must have worked overtime analysing their flaws and mistakes. They will also think of those two super raids by Rajesh Mondal and Pradeep Narwal that scripted their downfall against the Patna Pirates. It was NileshShinde, their captain who let slip both that day.
The second match on Tuesday will be a contest between Telugu Titans and former champions Jaipur Pink Panthers. The former are placed fourth while their rivals are sixth in the table. Both will be contesting within four days of their thriller at Pune. The team from the South beat their rivals to the tape there with the help of Iranian star MerajSheykh and substitute Prashant Rai.
The ebullient all-rounder drew upon all his energy to snare two defenders for a 23-23 equalizer in the dying minutes. But the Jaipur side yet had an opportunity to win the match. Rajesh Narwal got a bonus but his anxiety to get a touch point cost his side dearly. Hewas trapped leaving only Ran Singh on court. Prashant Rai affected the all-out and the Telugu Titans were through at 27-25, on the last raid of the match.
The team from the Pink city haven’t found their rhythm. Surely, the absence of Jasvir Singh their main raider due to injury is hampering them. If he plays it will be a double-edged sword. He will be short on match practice and confidence owing to the shoulder injury but yet isn’t he capable of providing fillip to the beleaguered side?
This match is crucial for the erstwhile champions to stay in the qualifying race. Their tally of 15 points isn’t healthy and a loss will leave them with the herculean task of winning the remaining matches. So the onus is on SonuNarwal, Rajesh, Ran Singh and Rohit Rana if he is available to spring a surprise.
For the Telugu Titans they will have their star Rahul Chaudhari back to lead the charge and SukeshHegde the Mr. Consistent will be at hand to provide solidity in attack in the absence of RohitBaliyan who is down with a viral infection. Sukesh’s presence will raise the morale of others in helping their team surge ahead. A win will take their tally to 27 points. Assuming that the cut-off point may be close to 45 points for the play-offs, the Telugu Titans have better chances in the current scenario.