Mumbai’s offensive dominance all through the tournament was explained concisely by Jasmer, the captain of Delhi, who was the expert talking just before the game. He said Mumbai were the only team to have a competent attack from both sides of the court. I had not considered this aspect.
The two leading raiders in the competition are both from Mumbai. One is Shabeer Bapu Sharfuddeen, who in six matches has scored 60 points in 93 raids, which is an astonishing rate of striking. The other Mumbai raider is its captain Anup Kumar.
The two men begin their attack from different parts of the court, and this is what Jasmer was pointing to. Kumar comes up the right and Sharfuddeen the left. Because the defence is also arrayed in the same way, meaning some defenders always left and some always right, because of comfort, it gives Mumbai the chance to exploit weaknesses where they exist. It means also that the defence has to constantly adjust because the two attackers are dissimilar also in their manner.
The geriatric strategy
Kumar, tall and thin, always comes slowly, like a geriatric on a stroll. On reaching the touch line, he pauses and then stoops. All of a sudden he now appears stricken, looking around with his demented eyes, constantly and needlessly straightening his sleeves in anxiety. He becomes slightly (but only slightly) more animated as he tries to get a defender out with his toe before returning.
Sharfuddeen is of larger build and with a very muscular torso. He is cold of face and shows little emotion. Once at the line he is like some Schwarzenegger robot in his efficiency. His point scoring comes mainly from constantly lizard-tonguing his leg over the bonus line in lightning strikes one-twice-many times, adding a point four times out of six, as his statistics suggest.
On Tuesday, this great player was felled well by Bengaluru and felled so hard that he had to be carried off the court, a moment of great anxiety for all who watched because Sharfuddeen is the star of the tournament.
This happened in the first half and Mumbai played without their ace for half the game but, as I have said they trounced Bengaluru. Some of this happened because of mindless play from Bengaluru.
The score at half time was 23-13 to Mumbai and the 10 point difference may be explained simply: Two penalties against Bengaluru (for late entry, meaning their raiders loitered around for too long before starting), four all-out bonuses for Mumbai and two lousy tackles on Anup Kumar, which happened late and gave him the opportunity to take three defenders out.
In the second half, with Sharfuddeen gone, Mumbai continued to attack well and defend brilliantly. Almost no raid by Bengaluru was successful at one point. Mumbai’s defence is led by Vishal Mane (short, almost square of body and as muscled as the Hulk). His team was almost arrogant in defense plucking a couple of raiders even before the poor fellows had even reached the touch line.
In offense, Mumbai’s Rishank Devadiga – who has started looking like Sharfuddeen, pencil beard and all – picked up where the master left and played confidently and productively.
The bloopers by the referees continue and Anup Kumar (for the third time in the tournament) was timed out, meaning fined because he had spent more than 30 seconds on a raid. He protested but was overruled. I was intrigued and rewound to have a closer look. Sure enough, the clock showed four seconds left when Kumar was over the line, meaning he was right.
Why there is no TV umpire is difficult to understand.
In this match it did not matter, of course, and after their fourth all out, Mumbai triumphed 45-34. Their coach Ravi Shetty was crying at the end as he hugged the players.
Mumbai are now undefeated in seven matches, tying one and winning six.
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