There were six teams who battled it out over three weeks for the inaugural Ultimate Kho Kho (UKK) title at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mahalunge, Pune. We saw some exceptional Kho Kho show from these teams in 34 matches after which we got our first champions - Odisha Juggernauts.
Here's how the teams have performed in the maiden UKK season:
Without a doubt, it was the Juggernauts' side that had the best first season in UKK. The team led by Dipesh More played some fantastic Kho Kho and was the finest side of the competition. They were consistent in all the matches in which they played with their top players in the starting XII and deserved to win the trophy.
They ended the league stage at the second spot with seven wins and three losses and won two back-to-back matches in Qualifier 1 and Final to clinch the trophy. They did not start as the favourites to win the tournament, but the way they won six games boosted their morale to lift the trophy.
TELUGU YODDHAS - The Yoddhas were a team with the highest number of total points in the season and made it to the Final. They were not given much of a chance by the experts in the league stage as they ended in third place with six wins and four losses. They looked a bit off track at the business end of the tournament with three losses on the trot. After which, they defeated Gujarat Giants and Odisha Juggernauts by big margins to get themselves going in the Playoffs.
Every game from here was a knockout one for this team but they outperformed their opponents with precision. They went all guns blazing to claim a win against Chennai Quick Guns in the Eliminator and then versus Gujarat Giants in Qualifier 2. It was the third day of the Playoffs and they were playing their third consecutive game which was the Final. They gave it their best shot but luck didn’t go their way as they conceded a point in the dying seconds of the game and they ended up as the runners-up of the tournament.
The Giants won their first three matches and looked as one of the favourites to win the competition. They finished the league stage in the second position with seven wins and three losses. Out of these three losses, the two games which they lost were by a margin of three points or less than that. The only game in which they lost by a massive margin was the one in which they experimented with their lineup by resting their crucial players against Telugu Yoddhas.
They missed the services of their regular captain, Ranjan Shetty in the Playoffs and looked off-colour in Qualifier 1 and Qualifier 2. They ran out of ideas and failed to execute their plans on the mat which they did so well in the league stage.
CHENNAI QUICK GUNS
The first UKK edition was not less than a roller-coaster ride for the Quick Guns. They wrapped up the league stage at the fourth place with five wins and five losses against their name. They looked like a very settled side on paper but couldn’t showcase their potential to the fullest when it was needed the most.
They lost their last league game against Rajasthan Warriors by a huge margin which dented their spirit moving into the Playoffs. In the Eliminator, they looked rusty and ineffective and had no answers to the Yoddhas’ attack and it meant curtains for them in season 1.
At the start of the tournament, Mumbai Khiladis were rated as one of the top teams that will go a long way in the tournament but they couldn’t live up to the expectations. With four wins and six losses, they ended up being the fifth-ranked team on the points table. The team composition looked good with some of the best players in their side but they were inconsistent on the mat.
It looked as if they would be able to make it to the Playoffs somehow but they broke down at a crucial juncture. Their hopes of making it to the Playoffs came to an end when they lost to Chennai Quick Guns in their penultimate game.
The Inaugural UKK season turned out to be a forgettable one for the Warriors as they could manage only one win out of the 10 matches they played, to finish at the bottom of the points table. They lost eight matches in a row before they won a game against Chennai Quick Guns in their second last game of the season.
They lacked intent on their side and couldn’t manage to play as a unit. The thing that hurt them the most was the inability of the Defenders to burn time on the mat. They had an excellent team with some of the big names but couldn’t capitalize on their potential.