PKL: Titans to face Warriors at home

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Visakhapatnam, Feb 1 (IANS) Bengal Warriors are expected to have a tough task on hand when they start their campaign in the third season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) against hosts Telugu Titans here on Tuesday.

The Titans have had mixed results in the two matches they have played so far. They lost very narrowly to defending champions U Mumba by a mere two points (25-27) and edged past a new look Puneri Paltan 27-26 with star raider Rahul Chaudhari capping a sluggish performance with a valuable point in the last raid of the match.

But despite recovering from the loss to Mumbai, the Titans may be a tad worried about the form of Rahul in both the outings. But the first two matches had a bright spot in Sukesh Hegde. He did well against U Mumba and scored a couple of points against Pune in the second last raid and helped snatch the lead for the Titans at 26-25. The Titans need to go on the offensive right from the start against the Warriors.

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After seeing Meraj Sheykh excel for the Titans in both offence and defence with his tackles and fast raids, Bhendigiri would surely evolve a strategy revolving around this ace Iranian player. But the Titans attack, especially Rahul and Sukesh, will have to contend with the Warriors’ ace tackler Nilesh Shinde. Bajirao Hodage, one of the best midfielders in the Bengal ranks, always does well in the company of Nilesh.

Bengal’s defence also has Girish Ernak from Thane, a potent tackler at the left corner. He has developed a fine combination with Nilesh. This helps both to close in on their quarry and Rahul, who is an impulsive player, has to be aware of the threat they can pose.

In the attack, the Warriors are likely to rely on Dinesh Kumar and Mahendra Rajput. Dinesh is a gutsy player and a fine escape artist, but a spate of injuries duirng his career have taken their toll. But if he is on song on Tuesday, then he could be more than a handful for the Titans.

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South Korean star Jang Kun Lee could also play a crucial role for Bengal. What the Korean lacks in technique and physical size as compared to Indians, the former martial arts exponent makes up for with his speed, agility and endurance.

Last season the Titans leaked points due to an unstable and unorganised defence. They have tried to overcome this deficiency through 40-year-old veteran Dharmaraj Cherlathan. How, ‘Anna’, as he is addressed on the circuit, responds to the challenge will be the key to Titans’ success in this phase of the PKL before the tournament shifts to Bengaluru for the second phase.

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