“Meraj, Meraj, Meraj!” The crowd at Thyagraj Stadium in New Delhi cheered everytime Meraj Sheykh came out for a raid in the opening home leg fixture against Jaipur Pink Panthers. In the 12th minute of the first half, the emcee prompted the crowd to cheer “we want all out”. The fans followed suit and Sheykh obliged.
In the next minute, the Iranian stepped up with three players in front of him. He lured them in and as soon as they pounced on him, he acrobatically got back to the cross line. All three players had his hands on him when he made it.
But more twists were in store. The referee ruled in favour of Jaipur. Sheykh immediately asked for a review. As he was being tended by the medical staff on the sidelines for a broken tooth, the referees took a look at the video and ruled in Delhi’s favour. Sheykh had not only given his side 5 points, he also completed an all out, which the fans had ordered for.
“It was our strategy to get an all out before the first half as we knew it build our pressure on the opposition. We had confidence that if we send Meraj or any other raider, he will be able to get the points, against three defenders, as it would be difficult for them to get a super tackle,” skipper Joginder Singh Narwal said at the press conference.
By the end of the first half, Sheykh had already completed his Super 10 and given his side a 29-10 lead.
The 30-year-old was the star of the night. It did not matter that Sheykh couldn’t finish as the top scorer. Deepak Hooda took the plaudits, registering 20 out of 35 points in the match for Jaipur. But Sheykh was out to impress, and with a broken tooth, he continued to play on and took his side to 48-35 win with 15 points under his belt by the close of the match.
“We want to win at any cost in front of the home fans. We will either do or die, but we will ensure we do not disappoint Delhi fans, who came out in numbers to support us,” Delhi coach Krishan Hooda said after revealing Sheykh’s injury at the press conference.
Delhi will next face U Mumba on Saturday.
Tamil Thalaivas, Patna Pirates play thrilling draw
Patna Pirates extended their unbeaten run to six matches as they play out a thrilling draw against Tamil Thalaivas on Friday. In a contest that saw two star raiders Pardeep Narwal and Ajay Thakur going against each other, it literally came down to the two captains. Both Narwal and Thakur led from the point, each registering Super 10s for their sides.
With two minutes left to go, it turned into a cat-and-mouse game between the two. Thakur and Narwal kept going for the challenges, each completing successful raids one after the other. With 20 seconds left on the clock, Narwal entered and completed a quick raid to level the score, still leaving time enough for one more raid from the Chennai side. As Thakur entered for the final raid, he was signaled by coach E Bhaskaran to go for the point and try to bag the win.
But at the last second, the skipper refrained from going forward, ending the contest with both sides getting three points each. Recalling the moment, Thakur told reporters that initially he also wanted to go for the win. “Initially, I was 100 per cent convinced I wanted to try and go for the win. But then, when I entered, it crossed my mind that we could lose 3 points, in case I get caught. With a heavy heart, I decided to let it go at the last second,” he said.