The tale of the 6 crorepatis in Pro Kabaddi League Season 6.
The man in focus during the season six finale, Pawan Kumar Sehrawat from the Bengaluru Bulls is a prime example of a raider with speed, agility and aggression. If the Gujarat Fortunegiants defense unit wore the look of a daunting pack of wild lions in a jungle, Sehrawat was the supremo. With a few skips and jumps, Sehrawat would foray the area and then strike as he accelerated to his right, leaving no time for the split-second reflexes of the defenders to take over.
Yet, in a season filled with superstar names such as Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal, Monu Goyat amongst others, the young Sehrawat and U Mumba’s sparkling debutant Siddharth Sirish Desai took over.
In a fast-paced sport such as the Kabaddi, the need to think quickly and act on the mat is of paramount importance.
However, what’s even more surprising is the fact that not a single one of the raiders from the ‘crorepati’ club found their way in the list of the ‘Top 5 raiders’ from the season, with only the sixth place taken by an important member of the exclusive club
Deepak Niwas Hooda
The Jaipur Pink Panthers skipper, gifted with a tall frame and might to power through the best of opposition, took over the reins from regular skipper Anup Kumar, who announced his sudden retirement and it seemed like the captaincy duties did him well as Hooda looked solid, picking up a ‘Super-10’ almost once in two games and finished the season with 196 raid points from 22 matches, at an average of 8.9 points per game and ten Super-10s.
While Hooda went about his business in clinical fashion, the Titans’ ‘emotional connect’ with Rahul Chaudhari did not convert into strong shows on the mat as the raid machine lacked his famous intent on the mat and failed to live up to his 1.29 crore rupees contract.
Chaudhari started strong as he picked up 18 points from the first two games but it took him six games to pick up his first ‘Super-10’, with his 17-point effort against the Patna Pirates proving to be the real exhibition of Chaudhari’s skills in the game. However, the explosive raider’s inability to strike at crucial moments saw him ensure a dry spell, a nine-match streak without a ‘Super-10’ that had a direct outcome on the match result as the Titans lost six of those encounters and won just two. Chaudhari did manage to pick up two more ‘Super-10s’ to his credit in the final few games but a majority of the light was shed on his inability to come out of his shadows, as the heavy price tag on his shoulders only seemed to push him further down with time.
In the Puneri Paltan’s case though, the decision to invest big on Nitin Tomar proved costly as the five-star raider played in just the first half of the tournament but made an impact with 100 raid points from 11 matches. Such was the influence of Tomar’s absence owing to an injury that Pune went on to win only three of their next eleven games, as they crashed out of the season with just 8 wins from 22 matches.
While Pune’s season was marred with disappointments, the UP Yoddha exceeded all expectations as they sprang their way up from the jaws of elimination to stake a place in the playoffs, all a fairy-tale run under the tutelage of one man – Rishank Devadiga.
On a personal note, Devadiga’s season was not the best in terms of his raiding skill. With just 100 raid points from 23 matches, Devadiga finished at a paltry average of 4.34 raid points per game and going by his lofty standards, the numbers certainly did not paint a pretty picture.
Yet, for Devadiga, the team was always on a higher pedestal. With injuries crippling his ability to storm through the opposition units, Devadiga opted to take the backseat and slotted into a managerial role of sorts – similar to one that was opted by Bulls’ skipper Rohit Kumar.
The move paid rich dividends as the Yoddha put up an all-round show and with Devadiga at the helm of matters knocked out the Bengal Warriors, U Mumba and Dabang Delhi K.C before agonisingly falling short in the second qualifier against the Fortunegiants.
Speaking on the lines of captaincy, one cannot forget the presence of the only foreign ‘crorepati’ in U Mumba’s skipper Fazel Atrachali, who was at his usual best, putting in the ankle holds and keeping his side chugging along with unique strategies.
Never a man for personal records, Atrachali formed a potent combination with his cover defense duo of Rohit Rana and Surender Singh and ensured that whenever the situation arose, he was there to provide support with his strength and learnings from the sport of wrestling.
While most people could attribute U Mumba’s success to the Iranian head coach-captain combination, the story was far from that as it was all about Atrachali’s ability to infuse confidence in his teammates that saw the team manifest as one of the biggest title contenders in the competition.
A blazing run into the playoffs pitted U Mumba against the Yoddha and although Atrachali’s team bowed out of the competition, the Iranian was all smiles in the end as he lauded the 8-point effort put in by Nitesh Kumar, whose dominance on the day put the game to bed.
Now, with five out of the six ‘crorepatis’ dealt with, it is only fitting that a special mention is made of Monu Goyat, who earned the distinction of becoming India’s most-expensive non-cricket athlete when his services were procured for a sum of 1.51 crore rupees. While Goyat’s proficiency on the mat was certainly unquestionable, the real question was if he could lead the Steelers to victory – a screeching diversion from the harsh reality. The Steelers were dealt a body blow in the very beginning as regular skipper Surender Nada was ruled out of the tournament as a result of an injury and immediately, the captaincy duties fell on the shoulders of the next best player in the team – Monu Goyat.
The Steelers captain picked up just 21 points from four matches before he announced his arrival with 15 points against U Mumba. However, the case was stronger for him to live up to expectactions as he was not only in charge of accumulating a major chunk of raid points, he needed to hit the nail on the head to take his team to victory.
In the first ten games, Goyat picked up 71 points but when looked at through the bigger picture, the Steelers managed to win just three games. Pin in on the lack of experience or not, the real issue was yet to make an impact.
The real issue was the fact that the Steelers could gather just two wins from their last ten league stage matches that only in some sense, fastened their exit from even a sniff towards the playoffs. Goyat, on the other hand, looked in the best of form as he picked up seven ‘Super-10s’ from the last ten games and seemed to add value to the massive cash pot that was hung on his neck. However, it seemed a little too late as the Steelers missed the bus, leaving the think-thank to rethink their ideologies on breaking the bank to procure the services of just one quality player when compared to a number of upcoming talented players from the local circuits.
Fazel Atrachali was the best, Deepak Hooda was better than last time. Rishank Devadiga was reassuring with his captaincy but on the raiding front, demanded much more. Nitin Tomar was at his best during his limited appearances on the mat. Rahul Chaudhari and Monu Goyat, two of the most expensive buys certainly needed to come up with better shows. Perhaps, this could prove to be a lesson that money is not all.
In the end, when one questions the success rate of each of these crorepatis, the task at hand is pretty simple, which goes in parallel to their performance through the season.