What has changed for the Telugu Titans this season?
After finishing second from bottom in Zone B last season -- with just seven wins in 22 matches -- they have seen a surge this year, topping the Zone B table by a strong five-point margin. The A-team is almost the same as Season 5 with all the prominent players -- Rahul Chaudhary, Vishal Bhardwaj and Nilesh Salunke -- still there. But the difference is huge as far as the scorecard is concerned. So, what exactly has changed?
Simply put, the answer lies in their right corner.
Defender Abozar Mighani, the newest addition to the team, has almost single-handedly (literally and figuratively) brought the team back to life. He is a monster on the mat -- dangerous and effective to the extent that raiders specialising in left-side raids have to think twice before even attempting a raid from where he is standing.
On Friday, in a match against defending champions Patna Pirates, Mighani showed his class in the defence. He tackled, jumped and blocked raiders -- including raid machine Pardeep Narwal -- again and again, with lightning speed, leaving the opponents with no scope to breathe.
His formidable partnership with Bhardwaj in the left corner further strengthened the Telugu Titans. The tactic was simple: just stay on the mat. You could see Mighani struggling with a hand injury, but he was relentless nonetheless. As most of his teammates went out, he remained on the mat until the very last moment, pulling off one super tackle after the other -- avoiding his team from getting All-Out, which would have given the opposition two crucial points in a close match -- and stunning Patna over and over again.
One can't blame Patna though. When the defence is that strong, the raiders, even if they go by the name of a certain Narwal, aren't left with much of a chance.
Mighani's technique is all power. Strong enough to pull a raider back, Mighani starts with an ankle hold and then grasps his thigh, making it impossible for him to move even an inch from where he was caught. When not tackling himself, he is supporting -- rather holding -- the defence. As soon as a defender gets a hold of a raider, Mighani jumps to that side in the blink of an eye, blocking the helpless raider from the right and centre, leaving him without an exit strategy.
It's safe to say that the Titans have finally found their anchor. Now it will be interesting to see how they fare when Mighani is given a break.