With two of their main raiders – Vikash Kandola and Prashanth Rai – injured during the initial stage of the tournament, Haryana Steelers failed to have an impact during the first few games. However, with the return of Kandola and Rai from their injuries, Haryana are a completely different side.
Why will they win
Haryana Steelers will be taking on U Mumba in the second eliminator game Monday evening and they know where their strength lies. A team which have been over-reliant on their raiders can go through into the semi-finals and then the finals only if their raiders come up with the same kind of performance that they have put on so far in the league. Vikash Kandola is their go-to man and the experienced of Prashanth Rai has also helped them quite well. There is an interesting relation between Kandola’s super 10 and Haryana’s victories this season and the raider will want to keep on with the same record as welTheir biggest strength is the raiding and it is not only for Kandola. Rai, who didn’t have a great season with UP last year, has understood his role really well and even if the defence failed on many occasions, Rai has managed to revive their primary raider Kandola. Same applies for youngster Vinay as well who is playing his first season in the PKL. He has played all the 22 games for the team and it is because of his performance, Naveen, who was with the team last season as well and was considered as a better raider, didn’t get an opportunity to perform on the mat. Vinay has an impressive 116 raid points in the league stage and also has three super 10s to his name. Rakesh Kumar has spoken a lot on Vinay and the newcomer will have to live up his expectations towards the business end of the tournament.
Why they might not
Despite having the most experienced defender in the league, Dharmaraj Cheralathan, as their skipper, Haryana are having a very poor record as far as the tackles are concerned. Cherala had a minor knee injury and had to miss some of the matches in the league stage as well. The defence was exposed in his absence and their performance has been poor. Vikas Kale, at the cover, has got a lot of unsuccessful tackle attempts which has hampered the team’s cause on many occasions. Kale had a terrible tackle strike rate of 33.92% in the league stage and he must be the biggest cause of concern for Haryana for the playoffs. It was the poor defence the reason that led to a thrashing defeat for the Steelers against Bengaluru Bulls in the game in which Pawan Sehrawat scored 39 raid points. They also have failed to settle down on the corner position, however, Cherala’s ability to play at both the corners is something that the Haryana think tank must be happy to have.
As they will take on U Mumba in their eliminator clash, Rakesh Kumar needs to be pretty sure about his ideas behind the team. Their defence might be a reason for their loss against U Mumba. Mumba have players like Fazel Atrachali and Sandeep Narwal who can be extremely effective against any raiding unit on a given day and on such situations it will be up to the Haryana defenders to put up a good show. Cheralathan had played with the two primary raiders in Mumba side - Abhishek Singh and Arjun Deshwal – and will have an important role to play in controlling the defence as he always does whenever he is on the mat.