BENGALURU YODHAS will take on a buoyant Punjab Royals in what will be a crucial Pro Wrestling League (PWL) clash with a potential semi-final berth up for grabs at the Gautam Buddh University in Noida on Sunday.
The Royals are on a high after having defeated Dilli Veer by a 4-3 margin in their previous match and occupy second place on the table with four points from an equal number of games.
The Yodhas meanwhile, are at the fourth spot with one win from three matches. Victory over the Royals will provide some breathing space to the Yodhas and will help to keep their hopes of a semi-final spot alive. The Yodhas slid to a narrow 4-3 loss against the Haryana Hammers on Wednesday, a defeat that captain Narsingh Yadav said was difficult to digest.
"In the game against Haryana, we were on top in a majority of bouts but somehow lost from positions of strength. There were at least two bouts that we should have won comfortably but the result says otherwise. The team has been doing well but it is the victories that matter. We have had a four day break and perhaps that was something that we needed,"
Yadav was quoted as saying in a statement.
The Yodhas have spent their break wisely, putting in the hard yards at the gym and also honing techniques on the mat under the eagle eyes of the coaching staff.
Coach Kuldeep Malik said that the last four days have provided the team with a much-needed opportunity to rejuvenate themselves.
"The situation is now very simple for us. Punjab have already won two matches and we need a win against them to make sure that we will reach the last four. Everyone knows what needs to be done and we have seen that every wrestler in the Yodhas' team has been seriously working on techniques and improving on their weaknesses,"
While Punjab have the reigning World Champion in the 57 kg category in their ranks, coach Malik said that the presence of Vladimir Khinchegasvhili would not affect the Yodhas' preparations too much.
"We are not scared of Vladimir. He is a very good wrestler but we believe that Sandeep (Tomar) can give him a good fight. Sandeep has traditionally fought well against foreigners and I am sure he will enjoy the opportunity to take on the World Champion,"
In the other categories, Bajrang Punia will be pitted against Rajneesh in the 65 kg category while icon player Narsingh Yadav will wrestle the upcoming Parveen Rana in the 74 kg class. In the 97 kg category, Yodhas' Pavlo Oliiynik will face Mausam Khatri while Davit Modzmanashvili will battle Punjab's Mongolian star Jagarsaikhlan Chuluunbat in the 125 kg division.
In the women's section, Punjab Royals marquee player Geeta Phogat will have a tough bout on her hand as she takes on Yuliya Ratkevich of the Yodhas.
The 30-year-old Ratkevich is yet to concede a point in the PWL and looks the overwhelming favourite to put one past Phogat. In the 48 kg category, American Alyssa Lampe will be up against England's Yana Rattigan. In the 53 kg class, Lalita Sehrawat will take on Priyanka Phogat while Navjot Kaur will face-off against Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus in the 75 kg contest.
Bajrang, the 21-year-old wrestler who lost a close bout against mentor Yogeshwar Dutt in the previous round, said that though the loss against Haryana had been hard to take, he was confident that the team had enough in the tank to make the cut for the semi-finals.
"Most of our wrestlers are in good form. We have been picking up a lot of points. It is just a matter of having a bit of luck go our way with the toss and we will definitely show everyone what we are made of. Even in the last match, we put a lot of pressure but unfortunately, we lost concentration at crucial moments. We will make sure that won't happen when we take on Punjab," he said.