From a nerve-wracking clash of the top teams, to the quick emergence and rise of a well-balanced side, ESPN presents the talking points of the week gone by in season 5 of the Pro Kabaddi League.
Who impressed, who disappointed
Pardeep Narwal, one of the most consistent performers of season 5 so far, is our Most Valuable Player of the week. The Patna Pirates captain has scored Super 10s in almost every match, helping his side to an impressive run - five wins, one tie and one loss - during the home leg.
With 211 raid points, Pardeep now holds the record of scoring the most number of points in a single season, surpassing Anup Kumar's 155 in Season 1. This week was particularly impressive, since Pardeep continued to attempt his dubkis (dives) and hand drags despite carrying a head injury, as his team went top of the table.
Bengal Warriors' Shrikant Tewthia, an all-rounder who is mostly used as a defender, was the Most Disappointing Player this week. Often misjudging angles and going for an ankle-hold in unlikely circumstances, he has, time and again, conceded easy points. It's made him an easy target for raiders, further highlighting Bengal's sloppy defence. Tewthia's tally of just 17 tackles in 15 matches, a major cause of worry for Bengal.
Panga of the week
The clash between the league's top two teams -- Bengal and Patna -- produced a thriller this week. At half time, Patna led 18-14, soon extending their lead to 32-23. Ten minutes later, the match ended in a tie. Wait, what?
With the defence completely dependent on captain Surjeet Singh and Ran Singh, Bengal relied on raiders Maninder Singh and Deepak Narwal to bail them out. The duo led an inspiring comeback, inflicting an unlikely all-out with a minute to go before tying the match in the final second. Bengal became the first team to take points off Patna in their home leg.
Tactical genius and dud
Deepak Niwas Hooda has been key to Puneri Paltan's late surge in the league. Having played just seven matches in the first six weeks, Pune stood fourth on the table. Now third with 11 matches to go, they have formed a team with depth - with Hooda himself, along with all-rounders Sandeep Narwal and Monu leading the well-balanced side from the front. In their match against Haryana Steelers, which Pune won by 12 points, they led from the word go and took advantage of their opponent's shortcomings, not once letting them sniff a turnaround.
On the other hand, all of Haryana's fears came true as Mohit Chhillar and Surender Nada, their leading defenders were rested. Rotations proved to be a major headache for the team as Wazir Singh failed to perform under pressure. Captaining the side for the first time, he looked distracted in his bid to make the team attack against the strong-looking Pune side, with the team being over-reliant on young raider Deepak Kumar Dahiya for raid points.
When a team is on top of the table and rotating its squad, one doesn't expect a lot from the new players. Gujarat Fortunegiants' Ranjit Chandran turned the notion around by scoring 11 raid points - the most by any player in the match - against U Mumba. Using his height to good effect the running hand touch, Chandran, in his debut match, proved to be the difference-maker in Gujarat's 45-23 win against U Mumba.
Fazel Atrachali is the only international player to feature in the top 10 defenders to have inflicted the most High 5's (five tackle points in a match). Atrachali has been instrumental during crucial moments, often blocking raiders with the double thigh hold before they can escape. In Gujarat's match against U Mumba, Atrachali scored six tackle points, helping the team inflict a staggering number of six all-outs in a 40-minute match.
Team of the week
It was a Patna show all the way in Ranchi as they registered the most successful run at home for any team in this year's PKL. Winning four of their six matches, they are now second to only Gujarat's record of five wins and a tie in Ahmedabad, to go top of the table. They've shown immense strength in defence - with Vishal Mane and Jaideep in the corners - while Pardeep and Monu Goyat have taken charge of the raids. They've looked like a constantly-improving side and Pardeep's tactics - he usually stands away from the defenders during a tackle, letting them do their job - have worked well for the team as a whole.
Rotations are important, particularly when it comes to giving rest to star players to avoid fatigue. Playing Pardeep despite his injury might have worked well for Patna, but it was a situation that could've been avoided. On the other hand, while resting Surender and Mohit cost Haryana this week, it might benefit them in the long run.