2016 Kabaddi World Cup: I am not retiring anytime soon, says Indian captain Anup Kumar
Once bitten, twice shy. Well, that is not a phrase that the Indian team is clinging onto at the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. In fact, their attitude and approach is the complete opposite. The hosts are hell bent on asserting their superiority in the semi-final encounter against Thailand, much like a do-or-die raid where there is no room for even a minuscule error.
The Indian team embarked on their campaign at the World Cup as firm favourites to lift the prestigious trophy, however, they faltered at the very start in the opening encounter against South Korea. There were mistakes that were committed, tactics which were not executed and team work was surprisingly absent.
India have learnt from their mistakes
But since then, they’ve tread a triumphant path and really come into their own to notch up four consecutive victories. The skipper and the team learned their lesson from the loss against the Koreans and went back to the drawing board, keen on eliminating the mistakes from their game.
"After the South Korea match, we realised that our intensity must not drop for even a single moment. We became a little relaxed towards the end of the first match and it led to a loss. If we meet them in the final, I am sure we will beat them by a huge margin," said the skipper.
Moreover, they are being led by the ever so polished Anup Kumar, a man who is a master of his trade. There was a cloud of uncertainty over his playing career, with reports of him retiring post the World Cup, however, he refuted the claims when he said, "I am not retiring anytime soon. I love playing for India and will continue to do so. There will be no one stopping me."
Thus, banking on his shoulders, the rest of the team will surely gather confidence from his leadership. For he is not only a first class raider, but probably the best man to lead the charge for the defending champions.
Anup is the brain of the team, as is evident in the way he marshalls his defense and when he whispers strategies to raiders and more often than not they return successfully from the rival den.
Speaking on the role he will play during the business end of the tournament, Anup said, "The performances of other raiders (Pardeep and Ajay) has taken the pressure off me for sure but I will still be looking to make a significant contribution with both captaincy and raiding during the big matches. I will continue to go for raids and try to turn the game in my team's favour."
Emergence of Narwal and Thakur
Pardeep Narwal and Ajay Thakur have formed a lethal raiding combination for India, and it is almost impossible for the opposition to halt their dominance. The numbers speak volumes of the kind of form and talent they bring to the mat, for together they have claimed a total of 74 raid points.
Ajay Thakur has, in fact, replaced Anup as the first-choice raider and etched his place in the starting seven based on his Super 10 streaks. Ajay’s exploits have helped Anup play more calmy and relax during the games.
“Ajay Thakur is an asset in every sense of the word and he has shown his quality in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. He had fitness issues in Pro Kabaddi’s 2016 Season and could not perform at a high level but look what he has done in this tournament, his performance has been impeccable," said Anup.
The home side have out-classed their opponents ever since that defeat to South Korea. They look like they have everything going for them, all the players are in prime form while the bench strength has also been tried and tested.
Thus, there emerges a precarious scenario about which players will make the cut when it comes to the all-important clash against Thailand wherein the glory and crown stand at stake. An unfazed Anup, however, was not worried about such issues, "The starting line-up gets decided before the match and there is no surety about who will feature. All the players look in good touch and I am sure the best 7 will be fielded."
Thailand will not be taken lightly
Thailand are a formidable team in their own right, which was discernible when they claimed victory over the mighty Japanese. However, the majority of the team’s success can be attributed to the efforts of their skipper Khomsan Thongkham who has the ability to score points in heaps while raiding despite not going too deep in the rival defense.
If he fails to fire, the team will have to rely on the defense spearheaded by Tin Phonchoo to stop the in-form Indian raiders in their tracks. Compared to the hosts, the men from Siam are relatively inexperienced but Anup Kumar refrained from under-rating his opponents, "There is no chance of taking Thailand lightly. They are a good side and we respect them. You will see how we play in the semi-final."
Thus, the newcomers at the world stage, Thailand have a mammoth task on their hands when they take the challenge to a gritty Indian side led by a lion-hearted skipper. "India does not need to worry, we will ensure that the cup stays in the country!" concluded Anup.