ANOTHER LAST MINUTE result enthralled the crowd on the opening night of Pro Kabaddi season 4 as two title contenders and fierce rivals fought till the dying moments, with U Mumba just about managing to come out on top over Jaipur Pink Panthers.
U-Mumba started on a dominant mode both on the raiding and defending departments. They trapped Tushar Patul and Rajesh Narwal, while Rakesh Kumar and captain Anup Kumar got touches. 4-0 down, Jaipur Pink Panthers tried to get back in by trapping Rishank Devadiga and Shabeer Bapu's successful raid. But then Tushar Patil got held and Rakesh Kumar came to their side of the court and got a touch. 10 minutes in, it was 6-2.
U Mumba continued their destructive raiding, with Rishank and Rakesh getting touches and bringing the Panthers down to one man: Amit Hooda. The coach intervened, taking a substitution, repacing Amit with Ajay Kumar. It worked. Ajay ran a successful raid.
Then Ajay-Amit substitution trope continued as U Mumba raiders continued getting points, keeping Jaipur on the verge of all-out. Ajay ran another successful raid before Amit Hooda got caught, conceding the first all-out. 13-5.
A fiesty game continued over the next few minutes with the Mumbai defenders doing well to trap the Jaipur raiders, while Rishank and Rakesh won them some points. Frustration was increasing in the Panthers' bench as star raider Jasvir Singh was continuously being denied any point. Mumbai went into half-time with a 19-11 lead, and the game seemed to be sealed.
But when the match resumed, there was a sense of the momentum shifting to the Panthers. The first major strike came from a Shabeer Bapu raid which got U Mumba all-out for the first time, bringing Mumbai's lead down to 20-16. They then trapped Rishank and Anup, and Shabeer Bapu got a couple of touches. And before you knew it, the game was level: 22-22.
Again, Mumbai were down to 2 men. Again, Shabeer Bapu came raiding. And once again, he got both of them, triggering a second all-out. Jaipur were now in the lead, 22-26.
Now it was U Mumba's turn to claw back into the game. Rakesh Kumar got a touch and the defenders caught Ajay Kumar. Jasvir Singh's bad run continued as he got caught again and Rishank got more points. Jaipur's Jawahar got adventurous and could not make it out of his raid, while Rishank got one more point to make it level, 28-28, with 4 minutes to spare.
The game was bound for a photo finish. The raiders kept the scoreboard ticking. Rakesh Kumar gave U Mumba a lead, which was overturned by a 2-pointer from Tushar Patil. 30-31.
Jaipur were down to just 2 men on the mat: Jasvir and Tushar. U Mumba's Rakesh Kumar came raiding and got Tushar out, leveling the score and piling the pressure directly on lone man Jasvir.
Jasvir came raiding. He had been having a bad night so this was his chance for redemption. He got the bonus point but on his way back got trampled by the Mumbai defenders. Jaipur were all out and U Mumba had re-gained the lead with seconds to spare. 34-32.
With the bases loaded, it was a fight to the finish from here on. Rishank got trapped, and the score was 34-33. But Jasvir Singh, leading a game defining raid, got caught again. It was impossible for the Panthers to recover from that one. And victory went to U Mumba, 36-34.
The Mumbai team, although sweated adequately by their rivals, was happy to come out with a win in the end, and keep their unbeaten home record intact. Victory against a major opponent is an ideal way to begin the season, and U Mumba, the most consistent team so far in Pro Kabaddi, have signaled that they are ready to pick up where they left off last season and challenge for the title again.