2016 Kabaddi World Cup: Iran more than capable of upsetting India to win trophy
The 2016 Kabaddi World Cup gets underway in less than a week from now in Ahmedabad, and the tournament is set to be a cracker. For the first time in its history, this competition will feature 12 teams, who will be vying for the biggest prize in kabaddi. India are firm favourites to win the trophy but could be given a run for their money by Iran – a team that is nothing short of formidable, strong and experienced.
Experts believe that with the likes of Pardeep Narwal, Manjeet Chhillar, Anup Kumar, Ajay Thakur and others, the host nation has the best shot at claiming the prestigious crown. However, one team that can give the Anup Kumar led side a run for their money is Team Iran.
With a host of Pro Kabaddi stars in their ranks, the Iranians, famed for being an aggressive lot of young players, will take the battle right across to the Men In Blue. History goes against Iran, considering they have been runners-up in the last two editions of the tournament, but the presence of players like Meraj Sheykh, Abolfazel and Hadi Oshtorak could help the team turn the tide in their favour.
At the last Asian Games at Incheon in 2014, it was the Iranian team that proved to be a hurdle in the final against India in a match that went down the wire. That was a bit of a surprise for the Indians, who had failed to anticipate the strong challenge from the Men In Red at one point of time.
Two years since then, the sport of kabaddi has scaled new heights with the Pro-Kabaddi League and, in the shadows, a more skilled and tougher crop of Iranian players has emerged. Not only do they play well for their national team, the Iranians are highly sought-after by Pro Kabaddi outfits
In fact, an indication of Iran’s prowess can be seen in the form of the fact that three of their players, Fazel Atrachali, Hadi Oshtorak and Abolfazel Maghsodlou, played a big role in taking Patna Pirates to the Pro Kabaddi 2016 Season 4 title.
Iranians to watch out for at 2016 Kabaddi World Cup
Meraj Sheykh – The poster boy of the Iranian Kabaddi scene and also the skipper of the side, he is probably most experienced to the Indian environment having played more than 40 matches and claimed over 160 points in the Pro-Kabaddi League. An all-rounder, he started his career in the league with the Telugu Titans and switched over to the Dabang Delhi side last season. The threat from him, well he can single handedly turn the momentum of the game in his teams' favour with his raiding skills combined with the ability of putting in super tackles during tense situations.
Fazel Atrachali – The left corner defender or rather assasin! Fazel is like a wall in the Iranian team defense with the ankle and waist hold being his key moves. He started playing the sport at a young age of 11 in his hometown of Gogran in Iran and the impact of this is visible in his fearless style of play. A two-time champion in the Pro Kabaddi League, in Season 2 with U Mumba and Season 4 with Patna Pirates, he has over 90 defense points to his name. If Iran is to succeed, they need this player to fire!
Hadi Oshtorak – The tackle machine, Hadi was an integral part of the Patna Pirates outfit which claimed the Season 4 of Pro Kabaddi League. A complete defender, he previously held the honor of being the highest paid foreigner in the League. The 24-year old player has gathered 37 points in 21 outings and will be a key figure in the formidable Iranian team during the World Cup.
The Iran team will pivot around this trio when they get on to the kabaddi mat to test the defending champions, India, and to conquer what would be their first ever World Cup victory.