Mumbai tames Punjab in chaotic PWL opening

There was a false start like seldom seen in any sport. The first bout between Mumbai’s Rahul Aware and Punjab’s Vladimir Khinchegashvili was stopped after 19 seconds, much to the amusement of the crowd. Without assigning any reason, leave alone a word of apology, there was a fresh start to the bout. The last bout saw the malfunctioning of the clock forcing an unscheduled stoppage.

Sakshi Malik (in red) beat Punjab's Geeta Phogat on bigger hold. (Representational pic)   -  The Hindu

What do you get if you have a group of amateurs organising what is labelled as a ‘professional’ wrestling league?

And answer is not difficult to guess — it’s a recipe for disaster.

If you caught the action on Television, consider yourself extremely lucky. From entering the K. D. Jadhav Stadium and finding your seat, it was an experience that could discourage you from coming to this venue again.

If the idea was to have loud music for busloads of youngsters transported to fill the stands, the organisers succeeded. If the garishly-dressed cheer-girls appearing straight out of a stereotyped Punjabi wedding, it was in keeping with the organiser’s definition of creating a celebratory mood, they succeeded again.

If the choice of Navjot Singh Sidhu, complete with his oft-repeated couplets, Virat Kohli as the Bengaluru franchisee’s co-owner, actor Dharmendra and his son Bobby, as the co-owners of Punjab franchisee — was to keep the crowd in good humour, there was partial success.

But what about the action on the mat?

There was a false start like seldom seen in any sport. The first bout between Mumbai’s Rahul Aware and Punjab’s Vladimir Khinchegashvili was stopped after 19 seconds, much to the amusement of the crowd. Without assigning any reason, leave alone a word of apology, there was a fresh start to the bout. The last bout saw the malfunctioning of the clock forcing an unscheduled stoppage.

Outside the K. D. Jadhav stadium, utter chaos reigned. For instance, those who landed with parking stickers for Gate 15 found the gate closed. To make matters worse, the traffic police gave them no time to recover.

For the working journalists, all the promised “arrangements” were missing. After getting their accreditation cards at the gate, they were clubbed with general spectators as there was no designated area for the scribes. That also meant no work stations, plug-points or Wi-Fi connectivity.

In fact, the disastrous start to the PWL could be guessed when the schedule for the first day’s action was changed within less than 22 hours to go for the opening bout.

Moreover, there have been withdrawals — apparently over the issue of payments — that have not been made official for reasons best known to the organisers.

The Delhi franchisee is struggling to put together a complete squad after its icon player Sofia Mattson did not arrive in keeping with the dictate of the Swedish Wrestling Federation. A substitute is yet to be identified. Evidently, that was the reason for shifting Delhi’s match from the first to the third day.

Mercifully, on the mat, the action was good enough in parts to keep the crowd partially involved. The fight involving Punjab’s Geeta Phogat and Mumbai’s Sakshi Malik was full of disputes before the latter was adjudged the winner following 8-8 scoreline.

Overall, Mumbai’s overseas players titled the scales in its favour.

Results (Weight categories blocked: Men’s 65-kg and Women’s 48-kg)

Mumbai Garuda beat Punjab 5-2

Men’s 57 +kg: Rahul Aware lost to Vladimir Khinchegashvili 0-6;

Women’s 53 +kg: Odunaya Adekouroye bt Priyanka Phoget 10-2;

Men’s 74 +kg: Pradeep lost to Praveen Rana 5-5 (decided on bigger hold);

Women’s 69 +-kg: Adeline Gray bt Vasilisa Marzaliuk 10-1;

Men’s 97-kg: Elizbar Odikadze bt Mausam Khatri 8-3;

Women’s 58 -kg: Sakshi Malik bt Geeta Phogat 8-8 (decided on bigger hold);

Men’s 125 -kg: Levan Berianidze bt Chuluunbat Jargalsaikhan 2-1).