Gujarat Fortunegiants – A triumphant home leg
On the Instagram handle of the Gujarat Fortunegiants, which now hosts a far-reaching set of videos and posts, one can see a few short-burst, energy-packed videos of coach Manpreet Singh urging fans to come out and support his lads, who were bound to play their home leg matches at The Arena by TransStadia in Ahmedabad.
For a man of many emotions, Manpreet Singh's experience and passion for the game was seen all throughout the home leg as his fist pumps, thigh slaps and roars were captured on camera, which only went parallel to his team's tremendous show at home.
Right from the first home game against the Bengal Warriors to the final home game against the Haryana Steelers, the stadium in Ahmedabad had transformed into a cauldron of noise and for no small reason.
With the crowd erupting to the theme song of their home team to the time the Fortunegiants were led out by the stout young man in Sunil Kumar, the one-week long extravaganza in the 'Textile Hub' was painted in Orange and Yellow, to match the colors of the home team which did not disappoint.
The first match of the home leg was against the Bengal Warriors, who came into the game with a 30-50 trouncing from the Patna Pirates. With Sachin Tanwar absent from the team, Prapanjan took up the onus as he assumed the role of the lead raider and picked nine points to kick-start the home leg with a bang.
In the next game, the Fortunegiants were pitted against the Bengaluru Bulls in a contest that was all about Sachin Tanwar v Pawan Sehrawat. Against a relatively young Bulls' defense unit, Sachin went about his task without much fuss as he clinched a 'Super 10' and ensured that the Bulls did not run away with the contest.
Right, the raiders had done their job and now it was time for the defenders to play a big role.
The UP Yoddha came in next and with that, the dangerous duo of Rishank Devadiga and Shrikant Jadhav. However, that flaming threat was doused in cold waters as Sunil Kumar picked up a 'High-5', his third of the season and was ably supported by Ruturaj Koravi, who dived and wrapped his arms around the raiders to pick four tackle points of his own.
The veteran warriors from Delhi came marching in next and with an exciting mix of young raiders in the Dabang Delhi setup, the Fortunegiants had a tough task at hand. Sachin and Prapanjan had done their bit. Sunil Kumar and Ruturaj Koravi made life difficult for the UP raiders. It was now time for Parvesh Bhainswal to prove his mettle.
That is exactly what transpired as the cover defender notched up a quick 'High-5' and finished the encounter with six tackle points from five tackles. However, he ended up on the wrong side of the result, which was Gujarat's first home loss in four home games.
As if the loss was not a burden of pressure on the hosts, an in-form U Mumba setup was next, in what was billed as the 'Maharashtrian Derby' for the ages. What made the task ahead even more difficult for Gujarat was the one factor - U Mumba had never won against Gujarat in the history of the Pro Kabaddi League.
Ahead of the game, coach Manpreet Singh had a few words to say about the form of Siddharth Desai, who had blazed through the league thus far with a formidable set of skills that had already placed him high in the list of the best of players this season.
"He is in good form, but we have a couple of strategies up our sleeve," is what Manpreet was suggesting while also speaking in length about the presence of Fazel Athrachali and Dharmaraj Cheralthan in the wings.
It seemed as if the Fortunegiants had a plan or two, which was centered around taking an early lead. However, all those plans went to dust when U Mumba motored on with a 19-10 lead early in the first half.
Such was the dominance of U Mumba that even Parvesh Bhainswal, who picked up a 'High-5' in the first half was left gasping for breath as his team was under the pump. Yet, the Fortunegiants appeared rejuvenated in the second half and through Prapanjan and Sunil Kumar, piled the pressure on the visitors, which sealed the match in the hosts' favor.
Plans, ticked. Executed, ticked. Joy, unbounded.
Along came the wounded Haryana Steelers for the final game of the Fortunegiants’ home leg and with the former’s campaign this season outlined by a pattern that has mixed wins, losses and the one tie, the game was tilted in favour of Gujarat. With the crowd firmly in support of the Fortunegiants, it was only fitting that the home team put up a display for the home crowd to cherish for one last time this season.
A fairytale beginning came their way - A magnificent super raid for Mahendra Ganesh Rajput, as he too had something to contribute in this home leg - set the ball rolling.
Gujarat slowly but steadily built up a sizeable lead, only to see the Steelers effect three super tackles in a row that dented the lead. Yet, at all times, one man clad in a shiny grey suit wore an animated look as he pumped his wards with the confidence and the grit to push to stay in the lead.
Manpreet Singh's checklist certainly did not have a loss in the final game and even an injury to the man in form, Mahendra Rajput could not take a win away from the Fortunegiants. Yet again, Parvesh Bhainswal was a force to reckon with as he finished with six tackle points while Sachin Tanwar, leaping up and down in joy with emotions dictating his movements skipped and turned to yet another 'Super 10', only his fourth this season.
The win in the final home game was a bigger achievement than just another win - It was Gujarat's first win against the Haryana Steelers and the emotions started to flow. The Fortunegiants' players embraced each other in warm hugs as Manpreet opted to hug the team mascot, a giant muscular man in soft fabric with an enviable beard to celebrate the famous win.
The crowd, which had turned up in large numbers turned on their flashlights on the phones and as they waved their phones in the air, walked out of the stadium with a plenty of fond memories to cherish.
In the end, with four wins, a tie and just a solitary loss from six games, the Fortunegiants achieved the extraordinary season – the solution to the home leg conundrum – an issue which was brushed away by a team of youngsters, determined to make it big and led by a coach, whose continued support from the sidelines never faded away.