Maharashtra rode on Rishank Devadiga’s stupendous raiding skills to upstage defending champions Services 34-29 in the Men’s final of the 65th Senior National Kabaddi Championship at the Gachibowli indoor stadium in Hyderabad on Friday evening.
After guiding Maharashtra to the final with a breathtaking point in the buzzer raid of the semi-final against Karnataka, Devadiga began the final with the same intensity to grab a super raid in the very first attempt in the final. 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 Co made most of the momentum to establish an 11-point lead at the interval with the score reading 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 Patna Pirates raider produced five 2-point raids to enforce an all out on Maharashtra and help Services draw level in the encounter at 25-25 with eight minutes of play left.
But the turning point of the match arrived five minutes from time when Goyat was sent to the bench after a super tackle from Maharashtra that revived Devadiga with the score at 27-26 in Maharashtra’s favour.
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.
But 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 at 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 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 defence 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 reaqch 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.