The second season of the Pro Kabaddi League couldn't have hoped for a better start. Despite far-right group Shiv Sena managing to force the organisers into dropping Pakistani players from games in Maharashtra, the first leg of the competition in Mumbai has managed to make the headlines for all the right reasons.
After four days of intense kabaddi action at the NSCI Complex in Mumbai, U Mumba have surged to the top of the table with a sensational run of victories. The Ronnie Screwvala-owned team has won all its four games so far, becoming the first ever team in the history of the competition to win all the games in its home leg.
U Mumba dominate at home; Telegu Titans post impressive wins
The season kicked off with Amitabh Bachchan's soulful rendition of the national anthem on the first day. With the who's who of B-town in attendance, U Mumba and Jaipur Pink Panthers faced each other in what turned out to be a highly dramatic encounter, with the home side pulling off a one-point (29-28) victory over the defending champions. The win over Jaipur set the tone for U Mumba's first leg campaign, as they cruised to comfortable wins over Bengaluru Bulls, Patna Pirates and Puneri Paltan in the subsequent games.
In their second game against Bengaluru, who had beaten Bengal Warriors a day earlier, U Mumba strode to a 33-25 win. They then followed it up with a 25-20 victory over Patna Pirates, with raiders Anup Kumar and Shabeer Bapu Sharfuddin starring for the side. Having played three games in three days, the U Mumba side came up against a much fresher Puneri Paltan team on Tuesday, 21 July. It, however, turned out to be a relatively easy win for the home team, as they edged out Pune 29-21.
In other games, Telegu Titans posted impressive victories in their two matches. The Hyderabad-based side beat Dabang Delhi by a scoreline of 36-27 on Sunday, 19 July, and then went on to demolish Puneri Paltan 45-24 a day later. The wins put the Titans on second position with 10 points, 10 behind leaders U Mumba. Bengaluru lie in third place with 5 points, whereas Jaipur currently hold the 4th spot with 1 point.
The best performers
Shabeer Bapu Sharfuddin has been the best performer for U Mumba so far, and has picked up the highest raid points in the tournament as well. Anup Kumar, Jeeva Kumar and Rishank Devadiga have played key roles for the team in their four wins, while Rahul Chaudhari has made a strong start to the 2015 season with two outstanding performances for Telegu Titans. Chaudhari's Iranian teammate, Meraj Shekyh, has been crucial in the Titans' two victories too.
Next stop: Kolkata
The season moves on to the Kolkata leg on Wednesday, 22 July. The 2nd leg will commence with former cricketer Sourav Ganguly singing the national anthem at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, before Bengal Warriors take on Jaipur Pink Panthers. For Warriors, this will be an extremely crucial leg, as failing to pick up points here could see them getting stuck at the bottom of the table, and more or less end their semi-final hopes. The home side, however, will have it tough, with Jaipur, U Mumba and Telegu Titans being three of the four teams lying in wait for them in this leg.