February 29: Defending champions U Mumba and Bengal Warriors have an edge over their rivals Telugu Titans and Bengaluru Bulls as the Season 3 of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi enters the penultimate day of the league phase. How the drama unfolds will depend on the result of the U Mumba-Puneri Paltan match on Monday which is critical to the prospects of the Telugu Titans.
With U Mumba having qualified for the play-offs the fight for the last two berths is between Puneri Paltan, Bengal Warriors and Telugu Titans with the last named in a disadvantageous position. Both Puneri Paltan and Bengal Warriors are almost there with 42 points and only a miracle can help the Telugu Titans.
Puneri Paltan and Bengal Warriors need a couple of points to pip Telugu Titans who have 38 points and can finish with 43 points with a win against U Mumba. Therefore the dice will be heavily loaded against the Telugu Titans. If Puneri Paltan win against their traditional Maharashtra rivals U Mumba then whatever Telugu Titans faintest hopes, they might have well receded. So it all boils down to the match on Monday. A draw on Monday is enough to see Puneri Paltan going through and their record of three draws this season speaks a lot.
Therefore the match between Bengal Warriors and Bengaluru Bulls will be watched more keenly. A win will see the Bengal Warriors advance. There is no reason why they should not beat the team from the South whom they have had convincing win against by a margin of 10 points in the first leg. Like Jaipur Pink Panthers the Bengaluru Bulls side is beset with injuries and taking on an opponent who will be in full war cry will be a tough ask.
Jang Kun Lee and Nitin Tomar have been almost unstoppable and to expect Bengaluru Bulls to dismantle these machines is expecting too much. The Bengal Warriors defence is rock solid save for an aberration or two from Bajirao Hodage and the Captain Nilesh Shinde. It has posed huge problems for rival raiders. With only Deepak Dahiya and Pawan Kumar in their ranks Bengaluru Bulls will find it difficult to make a dent in Bengal Warriors’ citadel.
As analysed, the U Mumba and Telugu Titans match should turn out to be only of academic interest, barring the big ifs and buts which are sometimes associated to sports.
If at all the Telugu Titans have an outside chance then like anyone who is wounded they will make last ditch efforts for survival. But that will not affect U Mumba’s chances and the latter may or may not fight depending on how they intend chalking their knockout campaign. They might not field their core team to avoid injuries and gain some valuable rest or may prefer to go all-out for a win so as to keep the winning momentum going.