“Our coach makes all the strategies,” said Jaipur Pink Panthers captain Manjeet Chillar with a beaming Balwan Singh sitting beside him, “He has been a great player for the country and has also been associated with the national team for a long time now. Whatever he says, we follow.” On Thursday, those strategies came to fruition for the Pink Panthers. They took a stranglehold on their match against Puneri Paltan, unbeaten till then this season, and never let go. It was their first win of the season and the score was 28-30. Chillar, was a tour de force in the team’s defence, managing seven tackle points out of his total of nine.
But the Pink Panthers were saved only by the fact that the clock stops ticking after the 40th minute. For Puneri Paltan were on their way back in the latter stages of the second half. The first stage of this attempted comeback was almost single handedly championed by Sandeep Narwal. He managed a Super Raid in the 10th minute of the second half and then takes a point in his next to bring Jaipur on the brink of an all out.
But Jaipur held their own, Manjeet Chillar led a depleted defence to take as many points as possible and soon, they were ahead by seven points. On the other end, Deepak Niwas Hooda and Rajesh Mondal, who were the architects of their win against Bengaluru Bulls last week, were unable to make an impact. Hooda was forthcoming about it. “I do take responsibility for this loss,” he said in the post match press conference, “Their defence was good today, but I also made a lot of mistakes today.”
The second comeback came in the next, and the last, five minutes of the match. This time, though, it was more of a team effort with Rohit Kumar Choudary managing successful raids and the defence acting up. Soon, they reduced the seven point gap to three and in the last seconds of the match, Sandeep Narwal went in to raid. He had both his hands outstretched. Two raiders remained in the Jaipur half and both kept their distance. He still managed a point, but it was not enough. The final whistle blared and Puneti Paltan remained two points behind, agonisingly close to becoming the only team other than Patna Pirates to have won their first three matches this season.