Where catchers win matches

Trapped… U Mumba catchers take hold of a Jaipur Pink Panthers raider in the opening game of the 2015 Pro Kabaddi League in Mumbai.-AP

“Our work at the back has become more enjoyable from the time PKL brought in the super tackle to encourage the catchers. Coaches know our value; even fans now follow our moves,” says Mohit Chillar of U Mumba. By Nandakumar Marar.

Most often, it is the raiders who draw tremendous applause for their spectacular action in the rival court. However, thanks to the super tackle rule, the catchers too are in the spotlight in the STAR Sports Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).

Mohit Chillar of U Mumba does not mind the attention being on the raiders as long as he and fellow-tacklers, Jeeva Kumar, Vishal Mane or Surender Nada, are doing the work expected of them by their coach. Each of them is a specialist catcher.

Mohit and Jeeva pulled off super tackles, each twice, for U Mumba during the Mumbai leg (July 18-21). A super tackle or a special catch (applicable when a raider is caught in the rival half, facing three or less defenders) fetches two points. In other words, one super tackle is equal to two normal raid points.

“Our work at the back has become more enjoyable from the time PKL brought in the super tackle to encourage the catchers. Coaches know our value; even fans now follow our moves,” says Mohit.

PKL Season 2 has seen the teams putting up a good show in the defence. “If your house is secure, dominating matches becomes easy. Teams have worked hard this time to tighten defences; they have recruited expert catchers,” says Rahul Chaudhari, the ace raider of Telugu Titans.

Jeeva being adjudged the ‘Best Player’ of the opening game of the current PKL — U Mumba versus Jaipur Pink Panthers — meant that the curling line of defenders at the back is getting noticed. A pulsating match ended with U Mumba winning by just one point.

Talking about catchers winning matches, Mohit says, “Crowds may root for the raiders. I know my team banks on us. Two out of three in catching roles will deliver; we are confident. So even if one of us has a bad day, we won’t let the team down.”

Jeeva, playing a tough role as a catcher in a fast-paced sport with constant physical contact, is a crowd-puller. The player from Kanyakumari is so good at catching that raiders try to stay away from him as far as possible.

The art of catching is gaining prominence, especially among players attempting to become all-rounders. For instance, the U Mumba captain, Anup Kumar, caught a Puneri Paltan player unawares with his own adaptation of the super tackle at the Sardar Patel Stadium.

The catchers work closely together with a sharp eye, powerful grip and strong heart to bring down towering raiders. Apart from U Mumba’s impressive line-up of catchers, others who excelled in super tackles during the Mumbai leg were Kuldeep Singh, Jasmir Singh (Pink Panthers), Rajaguru Subramanian and Sandeep (Telugu Titans), Ravinder Singh (Dabang Delhi), Sachin Khambre, Deepak Dhull (Bengal Warriors).