22nd February, 2016, Jaipur: Defending champions U Mumba are riding a wave of high confidence after beating the previously unbeaten table toppers, Patna Pirates for the first time in Season 3 of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi. Having been beaten by them in the reverse fixture in Bengaluru, the performance put up by the men in orange and black showed complete dominance and aggression, something that the Pirates weren't expecting.
"Facing an unbeaten Patna Pirates was a situation we were familiar with because we were in the same position last season (unbeaten in eight consecutive matches). We used our insights from that experience to build our strategy. We also knew it would be a tough challenge but the boys came out fully prepared to win that night." Coach Bhaskaran recalls the mind-set of the players before the Patna Pirates game. A few comments mentioned by Pirates captain Manpreet Singh might have fired up the U Mumba players ahead of the tie but their feet are still firmly planted on the ground.
One aspect of the win over the Pirates was the exclusion of Surender Nada. While the coach reasons the exclusion to be due to a lingering fever that Nada picked up while away on national duty, his replacement Fazel Atrachali is gaining a fan following and immense respect from his coach as well. "Fazel has been playing the previous three matches brilliantly so when Surender couldn't play due to not being 100% fit, we decided to stick with Fazel. He has started a brilliant partnership with Mohit (Chhillar) and he possesses all the skill sets to be a very successful defender. His judgement sometimes needs to be corrected which is what we are working on right now."
Coach Bhaskaran believes that the Patna win also stemmed from a rise in morale due to the feats of the national team players winning gold at the South Asian Games. "The national boys were happy and confident when they came back after winning the gold medal. This spilled over into training and the rest of the team also started feeling more positive and energised. This was seen in our teamwork and defensive play against Patna which was cohesive and strong."
The reverse fixture against Bengal Warriors saw U Mumba run out 32-21 winners without the services of their four key men. Rishank Devadiga was the star of the match scoring 10 points including 9 raid points and a brilliant solo tackle. Fazel's subduing of Warriors raider Mahesh Goud surprised everyone with the Iranian's power and strength. U Mumba's defence has been brilliant in controlling the raiders of opposition teams which gives their raiders confidence to attack freely, as seen in the previous fixture when Rishank was responsible for the first Bengal Warriors all-out. The defending champions will be looking to continue their winning momentum ahead of their home leg and seal a place in the semis to retain their title.