The 2016 Kabaddi World Cup has been one enchanting affair of sorts. The tournament which returned to action after a hiatus of nine long years saw India tipped as firm favourites but there was a major upset in the very first game wherein the spunky Koreans riding on Pro Kabaddi star Jang Kun Lee’s effort notched up a thrilling win over Anup Kumar’s men.
It was unexpected that the hosts would stumble in the opening challenge losing to a less fancied side in South Korea, but then the only thing that is similar to Cricket and Kabaddi is that fact that it is unpredictable, in the former it is not over until the last bowl is bowled, in the latter, it is about the last raid!
Almost halfway into the tournament, we look at four teams which can possibly lock horns against each other on the 21st of October:
Republic of Korea
Resting atop the points tally in Pool A with a clean sheet, three wins from three matches, their run at the World Cup has been bumpy but right on the mark. They trailed against the Indians in the opening fixture but Jang Kun Lee who had been silent for the majority of the match announced his presence in the last 3 minutes to snatch the game away from the defending champions much to the surprise of the audience, experts and the Indian team itself.
Next, they registered a big margin victory of 60-42 over minnows Argentina which would bolster their confidence going into the third encounter against the challenging Bangladesh team. The match was a closely contested one and will earn the reputation of witnessing one of the most epic comebacks. Korea was trailing 10-0 early in the match when they decided to turn tides just at the start of the second half to make it 15 all.
Who led the charge? Well, none other than the man from the Bengal Warriors, Jang-Kun Lee gathering 14 raid points in his kitty to ensure that his team had the last laugh.
Thus, the Koreans with a cent percent win record will definitely make it to the semi-finals with their next couple of matches against the fairly unseasoned sides of Australia and England.
After an initial hiccup against the men from “ Far East”, the team surely seems to have embarked on the beginning of a winning streak with the second position in the points tally in Pool A. The young crop of players in the likes of Ajay Thakur and Pardeep Narwal have been stellar with their raiding as was witnessed in the match against neighbours Bangladesh.
The defence has also stepped up with Manjeet Chhillar as the flag bearer having claimed a High 5 in the first two matches and being able supported by Surjeet, Cheralathan, Mohit and Surender Nada.
The loss against the Koreans had surely dented the Indian spirits, but they gathered composure to strike back in true form against the force from Down Under, Australia whom they defeated by a margin of 34 points. The key areas of mistakes including the defense and lack of cohesiveness had been rectified in time for the team to notch up another win, in their third encounter against rivals Bangladesh, where they rendered the opposition hapless with their attack and tackles galore.
The bench strength of the Indian outfit has been tried and tested in each of the three encounters with most players shining with good performances on their given chance. Next up, they face Argentina and England, both of which will like practice matches given the host’s superiority in the sport and the poor track record of the two teams against formidable opponents.
The table toppers in Pool B, and right candidates to be pegged as second favourites to win the crown if they shock the Indians. Akin, to South Korea they have a hundred percent victory record. They defeated the USA on the opening day to earn a massive win with a scoreline of 52-15 asserting their dominance on the very first day itself.
If that wasn’t a big enough indication, they gave a bigger signal to their rivals when they thrashed Thailand 64-23 in a match that saw some supreme raiding skills from Farhad Milaghardhan who claimed a Super 10 and captain Meraj Sheykh and Soleiman Pahlevani who registered 8 points each to their name.
The only team which came a wee bit close to clobber the Iranians was the Kenyan team spearheaded by David Mosambayi. But their effort wasn't enough to upstage the men led by stand-in skipper Fazel Atrachali who was on the top of his game having exacted High 5’s in each match so far.
Thus, the Iranians have everything going for them, the form of the players, the tactics and strategies along with the momentum which will help them finish atop the table in Pool B since they have two potentially easy matches lined up against Japan and Poland.
Second best only to the Iranians in Pool B, they’ve lost only one match out of three, their opening encounter and that too only to the mighty Iranians which served as a wake-up call for the young team. Since then, they’ve just exhibited their prowess with two back-to-back big margin wins against Poland (65-25) and then they handed a defeat to the Kenyans in similar fashion with a scoreline of 53-21.
Khomsan Thongkam, the skipper and raider, has been the star of the team contributing to the attack with 30 raid points in total which also places him on top of the leaderboard. The other player who has shown his might in the winning causes has been all-rounder Khunakon Chanjareon who has earned two Super 10’s to his name, with a massive 15 points to his name in the match against Poland. To supplement this, they even have a respectable figure of 10.3 successful tackles per match to their name which makes them a complete team.
Next up, they face the USA which is expected to be an easy affair with the main challenge for the semi-final spot coming in their penultimate group clash against neighbours Japan, which will prove to be a hurdle that they need to overcome in order to qualify for the last four.
Thus, it is anticipated that we will see the much awaited India-Iran battle in the semi-finals while on the other end it will probably Korea taking on Thailand for a place in the finals.