For the first time in their history, the Tamil Thalaivas qualified for the playoff stage of the Pro Kabaddi League season, securing their spot in the next round after a comprehensive 43-28 win over UP Yoddhas on Wednesday at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad.
In the second match of the night, the Bengaluru Bulls came up with a 57-44 win over the Patna Pirates to ensure they end the league stage in third place, having one more match left to play.
The Thalaivas had never finished a season outside the bottom two in the group stage, and it did not look much different early in this season as well. Their main signing Pawan Sehrawat did not last an entire match after picking up a knee injury in their first game of the season. But the team’s luck changed a few weeks into the season when Ashan Kumar was brought in as head coach.
Under his tutelage, young raider Narender started to score crucial points for the team. On Wednesday, he picked up another Super 10 and was well supported by Ajinkya Pawar’s nine points, and Arpit Saroha’s five tackle points.
In the high-scoring second match, Bharat scored a massive 20 points while Neeraj Narwal picked up 10 more to help the Bulls to a comprehensive 13-point win.
Remaining playoff spot
Mathematically, there are still four teams that can earn the last playoff spot. Defending champions Dabang Delhi though are in pole position to take the last top 6 spot. All Naveen Kumar and Co need is to avoid defeat against the Bengal Warriors on Thursday to book their knockout round spot.
If the Delhi team loses by a heavy margin (more than 7 points), the Gujarat Giants, Haryana Steelers and Warriors are still in with a chance.
The Tamil Thalaivas were out of the blocks the quickest with Narender and Ajinkya Pawar giving them a 5-0 lead in the first few minutes. And while Anil Kumar picked up the first points for the UP Yoddhas, the Tamil Thalaivas were well and truly in control in the initial phase of play.
As the half progressed, the UP Yoddhas kept chipping away at the with Anil doing most of the heavy lifting for his side. However, the Tamil Thalaivas were doing enough to keep their noses in front with the likes of Himanshu, Mohit and Arpit Saroha providing Narender and Ajinkya with ample support.
For most of the first half, the UP Yoddhas’ raiding wasn’t as effective as they would have liked it to be, while the Tamil Thalaivas’ defenders had a spring in their steps. By the time the players stopped for a breather, the Tamil Thalaivas led by a scoreline of 18-9.
Even though the second half started off with both sides trading points early on, the Tamil Thalaivas were in control of proceedings. With a little over 13 minutes to go, the UP Yoddhas landed their first All Out of the game, and were raising hopes of a comeback as they ate into the Tamil Thalaivas’ lead.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the UP Yoddhas had reduced the Tamil Thalaivas’ lead to 6 points. However, soon after a time-out, the Tamil Thalaivas upped the ante once again, and marched on, making it a 13-point lead with 6 minutes to go. Narender had already registered his Super 10 while Ajinkya too was scoring points for fun. Eventually, the Tamil Thalaivas walked off the mat with the win, and flight tickets for Mumbai.