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PKL-6: Title favourites U Mumba face UP Yoddhas in play-off (Preview)


IANS Kochi
With the completion of Pro Kabaddi League's (PKL) group stage, an interesting clash is on the cards as title favourites U Mumba will lock horns with a rejuvenated UP Yoddhas in the first eliminator of the ongoing season 6 at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on Sunday.
The Fazel Atrachali-led U Mumba side ended their league round on a high note, winning 15 of their 22 games with 86 points in their kitty, while the Yoddhas, who were once facing the danger of a first-round elimination, made a roaring comeback as they won five of their last six encounters.
Yoddhas, led by Rishank Devadiga, won just eight of the total 22 games they played but somehow managed to clinch the third spot in Zone B to enter the play-offs.
U Mumba will once again rely on its star raider Siddharth Desai and defender Atrachali, who have delivered consecutively for their team.
Siddharth, who emerged as one of the biggest stories of PKL 6, has accumulated 211 raid points from 20 games this season. Averaging 10.6 raid points a game with 12 super 10s, debutant Siddharth has become the main threat in the U Mumba raiding unit after easily scoring against almost every team's defence in the league.
U Mumba will also look for support from raiders Rohit Baliyan, Darshan Kadian and Abhishek Singh, who have been impressive on most of occasions.
Meanwhile, U Mumba also boasts of having one of the best defences in the league which is strong in all positions. With an average of 12.6, U Mumba have the highest average tackle points this season.
Their defence solely depends on skipper Atrachali, who has 79 tackle points from 22 games. However, the ace defender has faltered in their last two games after managing just three tackles and the Iranian will certainly not want to repeat it in the big clash.
Speaking on the eve of the match, Fazel said, "U Mumba has been a strong team and we have worked extremely hard to get this far, with a good defence and raiding unit, we hope to break UP Yoddhas' defence and tackle their raids as we aim to move closer to the finals. The team strong raiding unit and our focus will be to tackle and score through our raids as well."
Coming to Yoddhas, the raiding responsibility will be shouldered by their trio comprising skipper Rishank, Shrikant Jadhav, who has the most raid points in the team (125), and Prashanth Kumar Rai, who has been their most consistent raider through the season. Prashant has 122 raid points from 18 matches, averaging 7.2.
After starting the season well, the Yoddhas' raiders disintegrated and it was only Prashant who was performing consistently.
However, in the last two games, with Yoddhas needing to win every match to qualify, Rishank stepped up to score 16 raid points at a good raid strike rate of 46. The skipper is back in form and it could be a major cause of concern for U Mumba's defence.
Coming to their defence, the Yoddhas' defenders have performed excellently, allowing their opponents to score only 16.7 raid points per match against them, which helped them to qualify for playoff with six-game unbeaten streak.
Yoddha's Nitesh Kumar is also the leading defender of the current season with 83 tackle points.
During this six-game unbeaten run for the Yoddhas, Nitesh, whose ankle and thigh hold have become two of the most devastating tackles in the league, scored 25 tackle points with an average of 4.2 points per game.
Nitesh will however seek equal support from Sachin Kumar and Narender, who both have 39 tackle points from 22 games.
Commenting on the upcoming clash, Rishank said, "We are looking forward to meet U Mumba on the mat, the team has a strong defence with Fazel, Surender and Dharmaraj Cherlathan, we will focus on enhancing our raiding skills to beat them. We will also have a plan ready to tackle Siddharth who has been one of their top raiders this season."
"We look forward to a great match and hope that the best team moves forward," he added.
Overall, a nail-biting contest is expected on Sunday as none of the two sides will leave a chance to advance ahead in the cash-rich league as the loser will face elimination from the ongoing edition.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Dec 29 2018 | 6:16 PM IST

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