Rishank inspires Maharashtra to first title in 11 years

Rishank Devadiga’s fabulous raiding skills led Maharashtra to upstage defending champions, Services, 34-29 in the Men’s finals of the 65th Senior National Kabaddi Championship which was held at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on Friday evening.

Devadiga began the finals with the same intensity as the semi-finals match, where he scored a breathtaking point in the buzzer raid against Karnataka. He grabbed a super raid in the very first attempt in the finals match. The Maharashtra captains’ strike pushed the defending champions¬†to the back foot straight away and despite Monu Goyat chipping away¬†regular points in his raids in the minutes that followed, Services slumped to an inevitable all out in the 14th minute to hand Maharashtra a healthy 9-point lead.

Devadiga and team made most of the momentum to establish an 11-point lead at the interval with a score of 22-11 in Maharashtra’s favour.

The defending champions though hit back in the second half with Goyat picking up the gauntlet of pulling Services back in the encounter. The Haryana Steelers raider produced five 2-point raids to impose an all out on Maharashtra and help Services draw level in the encounter at 25-25 with only eight minutes left on the clock.

But the turning point of the match was when Goyat was sent to the bench while only five minutes left for the game to come to an end. A super tackle from Maharashtra revived Devadiga with the score at 27-26 in Maharashtra’s favour.

Maharashtra won their first title in 11 years at the 63rd Senior National Kabaddi Championship. AKFI

Maharashtra won their first title in 11 years at the 63rd Senior National Kabaddi Championship. AKFI

The 25-year-old, who seemed to have learnt a thing or two playing under Anup Kumar at U Mumba, showed great composure in dying minutes to help Maharashtra protect the lead.

The West Indian state found an unlikely hero in do-or-die specialist Tushar Patil who, having come on from the bench, scored points in two do-or-die raids which were vital points in the match to swing the game completely in Maharashtra’s favour.

Devadiga finished the game off with a 2-point raid to give Maharashtra a 5-point victory and their first Kabaddi Nationals title in 11 years.

The man from Mumbai, who was handed the leadership of his state side for the first time in his career, felt his side had done the state “proud” by a victory he termed as a “team effort”.

On being quizzed on his ability to handle pressure, Devadiga credited self-confidence for being able to pull off last-minute heroics.

“I had the confidence that if I go to raid I will be able to pick up points even in most tense circumstances. But I also have to credit our defense for sticking together and playing as a unit,” Devadiga said after the game.

Earlier in the day, Services dominated the semi-final against star-studded Haryana to reach the final, while Devadiga’s Maharashtra had to wait until the last raid to seal their progress against Karnataka.

In the women’s event, Himachal Pradesh thumped Indian Railways 38-25 in the final to win the title.