Last 15 seconds of play. Suraj Lande goes the wrong way, but he’s near the pole. He doesn’t stop, but uses the momentum to slingshot himself around. He continues to sprint forward. Then comes a dive. Full body stretch, hands reaching out to get a touch – the telling final touch – on Telugu Yoddhas defender Avdhut Patil. It’s an all-or-nothing move.

A touch while airborne would get him three points as a ‘Sky Dive’ and give the Odisha Juggernauts a win. A miss and the Yoddhas had the comfortable task of running down the clock for just 10 or so seconds and walking away with the first-ever Ultimate Kho Kho title.

Lande took off, got the clear and decisive touch.

Hours later, in the elevator of a posh Pune hotel, two technical officials are deep in discussion, still thinking about that final move. True to their designation, they discuss the finer details. “If Lande wasn’t completely airborne, it would have been two points and the scores would be tied. But no part of his body was on the mat, so there was an extra third point.”

A tournament winning extra point. A point that gave the Juggernauts a 46-45 win in the final.

Moments after that searching dive, the team in red cleared the dugout and rushed onto the court, jumping, hopping, prancing… there was no exact blueprint on how to celebrate for this newly assembled team in a newly put together league. But celebrate they did. Slowly coach Ashwani Kumar Sharma was hoisted on shoulders and paraded around the mat in the air-conditioned badminton stadium of the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune.

Ultimate Kho Kho: From Spider Cam to poles, here’s how the playing area was set up in Pune

On one corner of the court, the Yoddhas’ coach Sumit Bhatia, a former student of Sharma, was asked about the guru-shishya (teacher-student) relationship.

Guru aakhir guru hi hota hai (The teacher is the teacher at the end of the day),” came his reply. “I’m just very happy that I ran him that close.”

At the other end of the court, the Juggernauts danced. Minutes later the festivities only increased as the team’s co-captains Dipesh More and Milind Chavarekar raised the trophy – prompting a burst of golden confetti.

This was a glittering end to a league designed to lift a wholly rustic indigenous sport away from being a hinterland wonder. And it promised to bring in all the ingredients that have been involved in making sports a spectacle in this era of franchise-based leagues.

An hour before the final, spectators gathered near the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj where stood a large banner promoting the league’s dominant social media call sign: #AbKhoHoga. One by one they moved to the banner, took a selfie and proceeded to the entrance, aware that any delay in the process may not be forgiven by the thick dark clouds that dotted the Pune evening.

Inside there was a show of drums and acrobatics. Dancers enthralled, and choregraphed calls from the Master of Ceremonies engaged the audience. There was a lights show, and the spider cam silently glided along its four cables to capture every emotion on the face of the fans waving their flags that had the logo of either the Yoddhas or Juggernauts.

It was all a part of the specialist package to provide a sheen on a sport many around the country may have played in their childhood. Later on, famous Indian vocalists Sonu Nigam explained during the prize distribution ceremony that he too played the sport while growing up. Mohit Chauhan, another famous singer, who sang the national anthem before the match, recalled he watched matches in his childhood but never got to play.

Before the tournament started on August 14, the League Commissioner and CEO Tenzing Niyogi told this publication that the idea was to make a nostalgic connect with the sport.

Ultimate Kho Kho: A new league, for an age-old homegrown sport that is banking on nostalgia

On Sunday though, it was all about the ‘now.’ You could tell that by the sight of 28 athletes charging down a tunnel, stretching their limbs to will away any ounce of nerves that may thwart their performance.

Then came the first whistle, and the sprinting followed.

For the uninitiated, kho kho is essentially a form of tag. A defending team sends in three players, who are to avoid being tagged by the seven from the attacking team – only one chases at a time. It’s a sport that includes a great deal of sprinting, turning on a dime, slaloming runs across the mat, gravity-defying full-stretch diving, and there’s no shortage of showboating.

Chennai Quick Guns' wazir Madan in action

After a successful defence or attack, there is a good amount of thigh-slapping, finger-wagging, and as it was on a few occasions during the final, a few choice words (happily drowned out by the cheers from the audience) were thrown into the mix.

Meet Vishal, who went from a delivery job in Delhi to being in the final of Ultimate Kho Kho

Six teams competed for the right to become the first-ever victors of the league – a right that now belongs, forever, to the Juggernauts. Now the attention turns to what’s ahead.

By next year the league may extend to eight teams.

“There are five big names (potential owners) that are in the pipeline to own two teams,” Niyogi told on Saturday.

There’s also a plan to hold the next season in two cities rather than just the solitary venue, as was the case for this inaugural season.

“From season three we’ll shift to a caravan system,” he added.

The future plans have already started to take shape as the first season comes to a close. It’s been an eye-opening adventure for the past few weeks in which nostalgia blended with the present trend of competitive sport.

From the mud, to the mat, to the glistening world of the mainstream, Ultimate Kho Kho laid down a marker on Sunday.