Two shining team-mates, a sublime South Korean raider, and an upset win. ESPN presents the talking points from the second week of Pro Kabaddi League's fifth season.
Who impressed, who disappointed
The most valuable player (MVP) of the week was Rohit Kumar. The raider - in his first season as Bengaluru Bulls captain - has been crucial to his side's three wins out of seven matches played, earning 58 points from his 49 successful raids.
Rohit scored 10 points out of 9 successful raids in a 32-31 win over Tamil Thalaivas last Friday. Against the same opposition this Thursday, Rohit managed a Super 10 - 10 successful raids in a game - out of 22 raids attempted and scored 11 points, including two do-or-die raids, after which he was barely tested in escaping from the defenders.
Rohit has proven useful in defence as well; In Bengaluru's 31-25 upset win over Bengal Warriors, he executed a super tackle (when the raider is successfully tackled by three defenders or less) against the in-form Jang Kun Lee to put his side in the lead late in the first half.
The most disappointing player (MDP) of the week was UP Yoddha's Nitin Tomar, who shouldered a significant portion of the blame in a lopsided 20-40 defeat to Bengal. Tomar failed to turn the match around both tactically and as a raider.
So far, Tomar has only scored 16 points from 14 successful raids out of a relatively low 30 total raids attempted across three matches; half of his raids have been empty (no points scored) at key junctures and he hasn't scored a single point in defence either. It's still early days in the league, but the man who commanded the highest price at this year's auctions has yet to show the spark that would justify the Rs. 93 lakh UP bid for him.
Panga of the week
The panga (clash) of the week goes to Bengaluru's 31-25 win over Bengal. Coming into the match, Bengal had won both their games, while Bengaluru had registered two wins, two losses and one tie. With the likes of Lee and the experience of Surjeet Singh in defence, Bengal were favourites to win. However, Ajay Kumar and Rohit scored eight and six points respectively, outshining the eight scored by Lee to give Bengaluru the upset win and top spot in Zone B, at least temporarily.
Both teams were unable to hold on to a lead for much of the match. Bengaluru's raiders struggled in the first half, scoring just three raid points in the first 16 minutes. However, their defence kept them in the match. Twice, they scored from super tackles, taking a 9-8 lead and later at 11-9 to go into half-time at 12-10.
The back-and-forth continued till 16-16, after which the match swung decisively in favour of Bengaluru, who pulled ahead 20-16 with a super raid from Ajay. From there, they held on for what was eventually a comfortable win.
Tactical genius and dud
The 27-27 tie between newcomers Haryana Steelers and Gujarat Fortunegiants, the first draw of the season, was our pick for best match of the first week. In that match, Haryana captain and defender Surender Nada played an important role, scoring seven tackle points as Haryana scored 13 in the last five minutes but were unable to pull off the win.
This week, Haryana went one better, outplaying Gujarat for a 32-20 win, which came about mostly because of the excellent manner in which Nada, in partnership with Mohit Chhillar, marshalled Haryana's defence to complement the efforts of raiders Surjeet Singh and Vikas Kandola.
Since winning their opening match of the season, Telugu Titans have gone on a five-match losing streak, which they snapped this week with a 21-21 tie against Bengaluru, thanks to some last-minute heroics by captain Rahul Chaudhari. But the Titans shouldn't have had their backs to the wall in the first place and Chaudhari, who has had 45 successful raids out of 124 attempted in seven matches, has been guilty of not rotating his team despite enough evidence that his preferred combinations have not worked.
It's not often that a player scores as many raid points in a match as Jang Kun Lee, but that's what young Ajay Kumar did in what was effectively a Man-of-the-Match performance in Bengaluru's 31-25 win over Bengal. Ajay's biggest contribution came in a do-or-die raid at 16-16 in the second half, when he overcame four defenders at once to return to the mid line and score four points.
Unsurprisingly, Jang Kun Lee is our choice of the standout international player for the second week running. Bengal have won two of their matches so far, the second a massive 40-20 victory over UP in which Lee was the raider of the match, scoring seven raid points. Lee has scored eight raid points in each of his other two games this season, underlining the South Korean's consistency.
Team of the week
The PKL's uneven distribution of matches as the season progresses has led to Bengaluru Bulls and Telugu Titans playing seven matches so far, while most other teams have played three games. Although it's difficult to pick a single team, Patna Pirates is our choice this week.
Having won all three of their matches, two-time defending champions Patna's record as the only team yet to be beaten this season should be as much cause for concern to other teams as the manner in which they've won, with two comfortable victories over Telugu Titans and a 46-32 hammering of Bengaluru. Led by Pardeep Narwal, who has scored 42 raid points already, Patna have looked unbeatable so far.
It was evident from the first week that the new teams were well-prepared and not going to hold back. Tamil Thalaivas, however, have been an exception, sitting at the bottom of Zone B and struggling despite having the likes of Ajay Thakur in their ranks. The same goes for Telugu Titans and Delhi, who now need to find a way to turn things around quickly.