Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], January 12 (ANI): Defending champions Bengal Warriors will battle an in-form Tamil Thalaivas on Thursday in Pro Kabaddi League Season 8.
The Warriors have had a stuttering start to their title defence with just three wins in 8 matches. Captain Maninder Singh has been the lone performer for the Bengal team with even the likes of Mohammad Nabibakhsh struggling.
The Thaliavas also have just three wins this season, but they have managed three ties as well which places them 10 points ahead of the Warriors.
Game 2 on Thursday will feature the season's first Maharashtra derby with U Mumba taking on Puneri Paltan. The Mumbai team have looked better balanced so far in the season, but raider Ajith Kumar's absence might affect their performance. Puneri Paltan have shown sparks of brilliance and coach Anup Kumar will be hoping his young stars can once again clinch a victory.
If the adage, "attack wins you games and defence wins you titles", is anything to go by, Tamil Thalaivas are definitely amongst the early season favourites for a playoff spot. They might have only 3 wins in Season 8, but they have looked like a well-balanced unit marshalled by their captain Surjeet Singh. Along with Sagar, he has made the team defensively astute, while the likes of Manjeet and K Prapanjan chipping in with valuable raid points.
Bengal's biggest challenge will be stopping the Tamil defence from attacking their raiders. With Nabibakhsh looking off-colour in attack, they will need to find another raider to help Maninder Singh. Maninder typically targets the left of the mat but that will mean he will have the right cover Surjeet breathing down his neck. A different strategy, perhaps targeting the right with Sukesh Hegde or Akash Pikalmunde, will be needed by coach BC Ramesh's team against the formidable Thalaivas.
Kabaddi is a game of momentum and Pune will believe the season's first Maharashtra Derby is theirs for the taking. Pune thrashed Bengal Warriors in their previous match with youngster Aslam Inamdar once again impressing. He will once again need to team up with the likes of Nitin Tomar and Mohit Goyat to unlock a Mumbai defence that seemed lost for answers against Patna Pirates in their previous game.
Ajith Kumar's absence has clearly affected the balance of the Mumbai side. Abhishek Singh will be entrusted with the offensive responsibilities while corner defenders Fazel Atrachali and Rinku will need to iron out the mistakes.
Pune coach Anup Kumar needs to use the experienced Nitin Tomar wisely. His presence on the mat has helped in their decision making, especially in guiding Aslam Inamdar on what to do with the raids. (ANI)