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PKL 8: Pirates hoping to consolidate position against Pink Panthers

Three-time champions Patna Pirates will lock horns with Jaipur Pink Panthers on Sunday in Pro Kabaddi League Season 8 at the Sheraton Grand, Whitefield, here. Patna, who beat Tamil Thalaivas comprehensively in their previous outing, will be looking to consolidate their position in the Top 2 by beating an out-of-form Jaipur team.

Meanwhile, in the second match on Saturday night, Tamil Thalaivas take on Bengaluru Bulls in a South India derby. Both teams have struggled in the last few matches and this encounter should lead to a tightly-fought battle.

Coach Ram Mehar Singh has assembled a Patna squad filled with talent and energy for Season 8. But it is their defense that has impressed the most, particularly when their right corner Sunil is fit and firing. Sunil and young Iranian Mohammadreza Shadloui have made the corners raid-proof while cover defenders Neeraj Kumar and Sajin C have pounced on every raider trying to escape with a point. Sunil, Shadloui, and Neeraj scored High 5s against Thalaivas as the team completed 21 tackle points in total – Patna’s best in vivo PKL history.

Deepak Hooda is nursing an injury which means that Jaipur will once again look at Arjun Deshwal for raiding solutions. He has shouldered the responsibilities well, especially in Do-or-Die situations, but Jaipur has very little depth to back him up. Deepak Hooda might still make it to the match but there is doubt if he would be at his 100% physically to wreak havoc on the Patna defense.

Jaipur will have to play an aggressive defense even if that leaks a few points. Sahul Kumar and Sandeep Dhull will need to bring their best to the mat for Jaipur to even stand a chance. Both have been uncharacteristically poor in the Panthers’ recent outings. Monu Goyat and Prashanth Rai will once again be the lead raiders for Patna. Both aren’t the fastest or the strongest but have wise Kabaddi brains which they use to invoke errors. A bold defensive strategy could therefore upset their balance.

Meanwhile, with four losses in five matches, Bengaluru Bulls are a team in a mini-crisis. While their captain Pawan Sehrawat has performed well in the raiding department, his teammates have failed to maintain the pressure. And the over-reliance on Pawan is something the opposition teams have targeted. Against U Mumba, the Bulls failed to keep Pawan on the mat for a long period and lost the encounter.

Pawan is a weapon and Bulls might be better off managing his time on the mat more cleverly. In Chandran Ranjit, Bharat, and Deepak Narwal, the Bulls have strong raiders who have been deprived of a major role due to Pawan’s presence. Coach Randhir Sehrawat must utilize them more to ensure the Bulls don’t become a predictable unit.

The South Indian derby against Tamil Thalaivas might be the perfect occasion for them to try out a new strategy and regain much-needed form.

Thalaivas have endured a difficult time on the mat as well and are winless in their last five games. The much-famed defense has faltered too with captain Surjeet Singh looking error-prone and hesitant. The team had 18 unsuccessful tackles against the Pirates in their previous game which should give the Bulls raiders some belief. The Thalaivas raiders have struggled too. Manjeet and Ajinkya Pawar had an off-color night against an aggressive Patna defense, but the shaky Bulls defense might be an easier opponent.

Both sides are in desperate need of a win which should result in an intense derby clash on Sunday night.

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