An invincible team, a 'Sachin, Sachin' chant and a last-gasp win. ESPN presents the talking points from the third week of Pro Kabaddi League's (PKL) fifth season.
Who impressed, who disappointed
The familiar chant of 'Sachin, Sachin' reverberated around The Arena in Ahmedabad over the last week but the person who set them off was not Sachin Tendulkar, co-owner of the Tamil Thalaivas. It was 18-year-old Sachin, who is representing the Gujarat Fortunegiants in his maiden season in the PKL.
Sachin was the most crucial factor in Gujarat going unbeaten in its home leg, winning five and tying one match in Ahmedabad. Standing tall at over six feet, Sachin has been the find of this season, amassing 54 raid points and six tackle points in the nine matches that his team have played so far.
He has also been a key part in their defence and has helped out the Iranian duo of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani in pulling off tackles from the left and right corner respectively.
Former champions U Mumba are languishing at fifth in Zone A after winning only two of their four matches so far. A major reason in them failing to match their previous performances has been their toothless raiding with the experienced Shabeer Bappu garnering only eight raid points in their four matches so far.
The 31-year-old is the primary attacking threat in the team but has only managed to be successful in seven of the 40 raids that he has attempted this season, with more than 50 percent of his raids being empty.
Panga of the week
The panga (clash) of the week goes to a match that featured the protagonists from the World Cup final that was played at the same venue last year. Meraj Sheykh's Dabang Delhi KC edged Ajay Thakur's Tamil Thalaivas 30-29 in a match where the Thalaivas led for most of the second half.
After struggling with a viral fever in the first couple of weeks, Thakur brought out his best in this match by scoring 13 of the Thalaivas' 14 raid points and guiding them to victory almost single-handedly. But Sheykh put a lackluster performance behind him to come up with a three-point raid with his team trailing 27-28 with less than two minutes to go.
Tactical genius and dud
Bengaluru Bulls' Rohit Kumar has not just been prolific with his raiding - where he has stacked up 65 points in just seven matches - but has also impressed with his calm leadership and flexible strategies. At 27, Rohit is one of the most experienced players in a young team and has led by example; he has also guided the promising Ajay Kumar, who has complemented Rohit well in attack.
While Delhi won one of their two matches this week, their tactics left a lot to be desired and a lot of it was down to Meraj Sheykh as his overenthusiastic play cost his team on more than one occasion in their two matches against the Fortunegiants. However, he atoned for it somewhat by coming up with a super raid in the dying moments of their only win this week. The strategy of benching an impact player like Abolfazl Maghsodlou in favour of Rohit Baliyan was inexplicable.
The Fortunegiants' youth brigade has been key to their table-topping run in the tournament and 20-year-old Sunil Kumar has provided solid support to right corner Abozar Mighani by executing 14 successful tackles in nine matches. While that number may not stand out on its own, Abozar has scored 26 tackle points of his own and that's 40 tackle points in nine games from just the right side for the Fortunegiants. With the experienced Fazel Atrachali holding fort in the left corner, opposition raiders have had a torrid time dealing with the Fortunegiants' rock solid defence.
Iran's Abolfazl Maghsodlou takes this honour as he has literally and figuratively stood above his Delhi teammates in what has been a mixed tournament for them. Despite being mostly employed as a substitute, he has routinely outscored the starting seven and has used his rangy play to great effect by employing the running hand touch. He has also picked up points by the bucketful in do-or-die raids as his reach has forced the defenders to play deep.
Team of the week
It's hard to look beyond a team that wins five of its six matches. The Gujarat Fortunegiants have thrived under the leadership of the astute Sukesh Hegde and the sharp tactical insights of their coach Manpreet Singh, whose face has turned the red colour of their jersey every time they have given away cheap points. With the emergence of young players like Sachin and Sunil, they have had a variety of standout performers in their nine matches so far and have marked themselves as the team to defeat in the early stages of the tournament.
While the Fortunegiants look like a runaway train at the moment with 36 points in nine matches, former champions Mumba and Jaipur Pink Panthers have struggled to gain any measure of consistency in the first month. The Telugu Titans look to be a shadow of the team that finished second in the league stage of the last edition, having lost seven of their nine matches so far.