Defending champions Indian Railways made a winning start to the 68th Senior National Kabaddi Championship on Wednesday defeating Jharkhand comprehensively at the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar International Sports Stadium in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

Indian Railways’ title defence started with a 33-14 victory, with captain Pawan Sehrawat top scoring with eight points and Vikas Kandola managing six.

But it was Rajasthan captain Deepak Hooda who was in the spotlight. Rajasthan beat Vidarbha 71-28 with Deepak Hooda scoring a mammoth 24-point Super 10 comprising 16 touch points and eight bonus points.

Rajasthan’s efforts were also pillared by Pradeep Kumar’s 16 points, which included a 12-point Super 10 and four tackle points.

Later, Rajasthan defeated Punjab 49-18 with Deepak Hooda managing another Super 10, this time a relatively sedate 11 raid points.

In other results, last year’s finalists Services beat Delhi 53-29 with Manjeet and Arjun Deshwal registering a Super 10 each. Pro Kabaddi star Naveen Kumar scored seven points for the winning team.

In a defence masterclass, Himachal Pradesh got the better of Punjab 47-18. Captain Vishal Bahrdwaj led from the front with an impressive eight tackle points. He was supported by Surender Singh’s High 5.

Home team Uttar Pradesh romped to a 52-27 win over Telangana with PKL stars Nitin Tomar and Rahul Chaudhari recording a Super 10 each.

The group stage, which consist of 30 teams divided into eight groups, will conclude on Thursday with the knockout phase set to begin later in the day. The pre-quarterfinals will be followed by the quarter-finals on Thursday.

The Senior National Kabaddi Championship 2021 will conclude on Friday with the semi-finals and the final.

Players competing in the tournament will be scouted for the Indian national kabaddi team.

Renowned coach Krishan Kumar Hooda, a Dronacharya Award winner, is a part of the committee to select India probables.

Photo: Pro Kabaddi