THE FIRST MATCH of the Nagpur leg, between the Bengaluru Bulls and the Tamil Thalaivas, witnessed roller-coaster-like turns to end 32-31 in the former’s favor. After a dull performance in the first half, the Thalaivas came back stronger only to fall short marginally.
The initial minutes of the game saw Bengaluru send the likes of skipper Ajay Thakur and defensive rock Amit Hooda to the bench. However, Tamil’s young raiders K. Prapanjan and Bhavani Rajput were quick to get the veteran duo back on the mat. After four minutes into the game, Ashish Kumar and Rohit Kumar raided in tandem to take scores from 2-2 to 6-2.
Subsequently, the Thalaivas’ raided under pressure and fell victim to Bulls’ corner defenders. At six minutes on the clock, the Bulls inflicted the first all-out of the game to lead 9-3. While Tamil skipper Ajay Thakur repeatedly struggled during his raids, his counterpart, Rohit Kumar looked very sharp as he kept scoring raid points. Courtesy of a handful of defensive errors from Tamil Thalaivas coupled with an all-round performance from Bengaluru saw the first-half conclude 23-8 in the latter’s favor.
Both teams progress slowly in the second half as the Thalaivas trailed 26-11 after raid points from Ajay Thakur, K. Prapanjan and Ashish Kumar. Substitute Dong Geon Lee, who came in in place of M. Thivakaran, worked like a trump card for the Thalaivas. The debutant ended the game with four successful raids out of eight, without making any unsuccessful raid.
With 10 minutes to go in the match, the Thalaivas scored points in quick succession and inflicted an all-out to trail 29-18. The young Tamil side displayed composure as their defensive line took lesser risks while the raiders slowly added points to the scoreboard. An all-out followed by successful raids from Ajay Thakur, Dong Geon and K. Prapanjan guided the Thalaivas to 31-30. Nonetheless, Rohit Kumar rose to the occasion and picked a crucial point in a do-or-die raid to make scores 32-30. Following Prapanjan’s successful raid in the last minute, the Thalaivas tried to restrict Rohit Kumar below the baulk line but failed to do so. Bengaluru won the game 32-31 after video referral confirmed that their skipper had comfortably got his foot over the baulk line.
All Rounder: Sanjay Shreshta
Raider: Sumit Singh
Raider: Harish Naik
Defender: Amit Sheoran
Defender: Pardeep Kandola
Tamil Thalaivas starting 7:
Raider: K. Prapanjan
Defender: Vijin Thangadurai
Defender: C. Arun
Raider: Bhavani Rajput
All-Rounder: Sanket Chavan
Defender: Amit Hooda
Raider: Ajay Thakur
Raider: Dong Geon Lee
Raider: M. Thivakaran
Defender: Anil Kumar
All Rounder: D. Pratap
Raider: Vineet Kumar
Rohit Kumar: The Bulls skipper looked incisive right from the start. He was seen bulldozing through the defenders like Amit Hooda and Vijin Thangadurai. The nimble-footed 27-year-old displayed strength and agility as he scored nine touch points from 15 raids. He took responsibility under pressure situations and made the most of them.
Mahender Singh: The youngster just didn’t make it look like he was playing his second match in the Pro Kabaddi League. Fielded in the left cover, Mahendra caught hold of Tamil skipper Ajay Thakur with a diving ankle-hold to execute a Super Tackle. Out of five tackles that he made, three were successful and came during crucial situations in the game.
K. Prapanjan: The youngster seemed liked Thalaivas’ coach E Bhaskaran’s go-to man. During the final timeout in the dying minutes of the game, Bhaskaran instructed Prapanjan to make most the remaining raids and the mentee lived up to the expectations. Out of 15 raids, he scored five touch points and a bonus point.
Amit Hooda: The right-corner defender fell prey to most of the tactics showcased from Bengaluru raiders. Hooda, who is one of the senior-most defenders in the Tamil unit, pulled untimely ankle-holds and body dashes. Although Hooda delivered an improved performance in the second half, he went home with five unsuccessful and three successful tackles.
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