It was supposed to be a match that caught the eyeballs. It was former champions U Mumba against Puneri Paltan. It was two teams from the same state and it featured Anup Kumar, who can pretty much be dubbed as the face of Kabaddi in the country.
Calling it a damp squib would be a bit of a disservice to Puneri Paltan who put up a stellar all-around performance. But the pen does crave to use the phrase as the match was pretty much a one-sided affair from beginning to the end. It was also the second match of the day in Hyderabad, with the first being the one that featured the home team Telugu Titans. Hence, the crowd in the stadium had turned quiet and you could see fans slouching on their seats for a better part of the match.
As stated earlier, Pune deserved credit. Deepak Niwas Hooda and his men were sound in both departments of the game. U Mumba skipper Anup Kumar may have scored eight points but it did little to keep his team from crashing to a 33-21 defeat.
Anup opened the scoring with a bonus point in the first minute. But that was the only time U Mumba was in the lead. Pune’s airtight defence helped them reduce the former champions to two players in the first seven minutes. The latter never came back from that horrendous start. Soon, Anup was the last man standing but he managed to get two points for his team. That was only a false dawn and U Mumba suffered their first all-out in the 10th minute. The score was 11-4.
The carnage continued after that. U Mumba was unable to come to terms with the Paltans’ defence while their own was left in tatters by the opposition attackers. In the midst of all this Paltan captain scored his first Super Raid of the season, an event that was described as a turning point by the Indian captain in the post-match press conference. By the time Mumbai-based franchise brought their score close to 20, their opponents were already on the cusp of victory.
If the match was a yardstick, Paltans looked favourites in the match. After a thrashing win, Anup will have to regroup his team and revise their strategy. “It wasn’t a good start. This is not a start at all,” said Anup. “We have to speak each other now. But it is only the beginning and we can improve.”
Despite the loss, U Mumba remain an optimistic lot. Their body language as they retreated to the team hotel showed that they were disappointing but far from being shaken. One of the members of the coaching staff summed up the team atmosphere by saying, “It’s a long league, three months.” He had a smile on his face.