New Delhi: Bengal Warriors take the battlefield for the first time in the Season 3 Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League against a tough opponent in hosts Telugu Titans. The home team lost very narrowly to defending champions U Mumba by a mere two points (25-27) and edged new look Puneri Paltan 27-26 with star raider Rahul Chaudhari who failed to shine initially but managed finally to show them the much needed light with a valuable point in the last raid of the match.
That win in which the side coached by their new master Ramesh Bhendigiri managed to outwit Pune who have none other than super strategist Ashok Shinde, the former India captain at its helm will go a long way in boosting the boys psychologically. It’s not every day that you can hoodwink a fox like Ashok who is known to be a cerebral operator.
But despite the recovery after that crucial loss to Mumbai, the Titans may be a tad worried about the form of Rahul in both the outings. If yesterday they bounced back it is mainly due to the excellent performance of Mr. Consistent Sukesh Hegde. Had it not been for the couple of points he scored in the team’s second last raid and helped snatch the lead at 26-25 then, the Titans would have been left high and dry. Sukesh was in the thick of things against U Mumba too but the others failed to apply the finishing touches.
Against the Warriors who are yet to play a competitive match yet, they need to go on the offensive right from the word go, irrespective of the result of their match against Dabang Delhi who had just caved in against the onslaught of the other South Indian side Bengaluru Bulls on Saturday.
After seeing Meraj Sheykh terrorise the rivals both in defence and offence, with his tackles and fast raids culminating in deft hand touches and straight kicks, Bhendigiri would surely evolve a strategy revolving around this ace Iranian player. But there is a catch here. The Titans attack especially Rahul and Sukesh will have to contend with Nilesh Shinde the master tackler in the right corner who also is the leader of the side. Bajirao Hodage the cop from Maharashtra is a top midfielder in the Bengal ranks and he always revels in the company of Nilesh.
Bengal’s defence also has Girish Ernak from Thane, a potent tackler at the left corner. He has a fine eye contact technique with Nilesh. This intuitionally helps both to close in on their quarry and Rahul himself an impulsive player has to be aware of them.
Coming to the attacking prowess of the visitors, they are likely to rely on Dinesh Kumar and Mahendra Rajput. Dinesh is a gutsy player and a fine escape artist but injuries have taken his toll. Having comeback on the scene last season he must have taken pains to get match-fit, physically and mentally and that will be judged today. If he is on song then the Titans beware!
Not much is known about Nitin Madane’s fitness. The talented Marathi lad will be the one to watch like Dinesh. However, the biggest threat would be Jang Kun Lee the South Korean star who has taken giant strides in the league. What he lacks in technique compared to Indians, the martial arts exponent makes up for it with his speed, strength, agility, endurance and more so his enthusiasm which is seen on his radiant face that’s constantly brimming with confidence. His utility as the right man for the do-or-die raids is not a degree less than the other noted exponents of the trade.
Last season the Titans leaked points due to an unstable and disorganised defence. They have tried to overcome this deficiency by instilling faith in the 40-year old battle scarred Dharmaraj Cherlathan. He can as a leader, motivate his mates in the defence which still looks thin and not settled. How, ‘Anna’as he is fondly and respectfully addressed on the circuit, responds to the challenge will be the key to Titans success in this phase before the ‘Caravan’ shifts to Bengaluru for the second phase of the league.