2016 Kabaddi World Cup: The Team of the Tournament
The curtains have been drawn over the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup although the golden dust over the Indian team will take some more time to settle. The 16-day extravaganza showcased everything right from the battle of the newbies like Australia, Argentina and USA to the clash of the titans in the semi-finals and the finals, in the midst featured promising teams in the likes of Thailand, Kenya, and Japan!
There were quite a few players who spectacularly rose up to the occasion with their style of play, and spear-headed their teams’ charge. Thus, we enumerate the 7 players who could perhaps form the deadliest Kabaddi squad if they were to combine forces:
A trio of raiders:
Ajay Thakur (First Raider)
A major cause for India’s success at the World Cup was the fact that their raiding department was unmatched, and Ajay Thakur, led that pack. The 30-year old man from Himachal, played to perfection to finish as India’s player of the tournament and also shined on the night of the finals, amassing 12 invaluable raid points.
When India were lagging behind against Iran, he came up with a stunning two-point raid in the 25th minute which proved to be the turning point of the match. 5 consecutive Super 10’s and a huge total of 64 raid points from seven encounters, saw him finishing atop the leaderboard for the most raid points, thus pronouncing him as the best raider on the global stage.
His running hand touch, his leaps and the frog jump, were skills that broke down the spirits of the rival defence and forced them into committing more errors.
Khomsan Thongkam (Second Raider)
The skipper and lynchpin of the Thailand team, he is one of the brightest prospects to emerge from the Kabaddi World Cup. The lanky 6’1 army man, guided his team to a semi-final finish, overcoming the hurdle of competitive nations like Japan and Kenya, while challenging the supremacy of established nations like India, Iran and Korea.
With 56 raid points to his name, he pretty much led his team single-handedly through the course of the tournament with a great strike rate of 7.7 successful raids per match. Apart from this, his calm nature also adds another feather to his plethora of raiding skills, for it allowed him to bag points at crucial junctures especially in the last group stage match against Japan, when his team was trailing and he came to the fore in order to clinch the semi-final spot.
Jang-Kun Lee (Do-or-die specialist)
The poster boy of Korean kabaddi, his team might have finished as the runners-up but he was right on point with his role, emerging as the Player of the Tournament at the World Cup. Two distinct instances where he showcased his prowess and bailed the team out of trouble were the group stage matches against India and Bangladesh.
In the opening encounter, he produced a terrific raiding performance in the last two minutes to turn the game in his teams’ favour against a sloppy Indian side to cause the first major upset of the World Cup. Then in the game against Bangladesh, the Koreans mounted a brilliant comeback on the basis of Lee’s 15 point heroics to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
Thus, he can not only play the role of a go-to man in the face of a difficult situation but also shoulder the responsibility of being a do-or-die specialist, with the ability to return successfully on most occasions.
The defensive duo:
Surjeet (Cover Defender)
A stalwart in the Indian defense, he topped the tally when it came to successful tackle and tackle points at the World Cup, 23 on both the leaderboards, thus making the cut to the Team of the Tournament. His leg locks, thigh holds and powerful body blocks can bring down the most fierce defenders on the kabaddi mat.
However, what makes him stand out from the rest of the players is the timing of his tackles, which is impeccable such that the tackle is hardly ever unsuccessful. The U-Mumba and Services recruit has the ability to combine with any player, and this adapting skill makes him a huge prospect for the future of the Indian team as well.
Fazel Atrachali (Left Corner Defender)
Second only to Surjeet in the tackles’ tally with 22 points, this Iranian man has made the left corner his very own. If the raider loses concentration for even a flash of a second, he can fall into the trap of his ankle hold. Menacing as he is, if he fails to get the ankle hold on the raider, his mighty body dash comes into effect to throw the raider completely off balance and off the court as well.
With his national captain Meraj and defender Suleiman Pehelwani and Mighani, the four formed the foundation of a formidable squad which was difficult to overcome even for the skillful Indians. If he is on the mat, no team can have easy pickings, as was evident in the final, wherein one of the keys to India’s success was the fact that Fazel spent more time off the court in the second half.
A pair of all rounders:
Meraj Sheykh (Corner Position)
The Iranian captain led his team from the front, not only in terms of the confident war cry to clinch the podium finish but also the fact that his efforts were solely dedicated to that dream. He was the man on fire for his team, with successful raids every now and then be it a running hand touch, dupki or breaking a chain and then returning to the shore to play an integral part in the defense.
His rampant attacking run marred the Indian side in the first half of the finals before they staged a gutsy comeback to claim the trophy. His all-round skills, along with leadership qualities make him a vital candidate to feature in the Team of the Tournament.
Manjeet Chhillar (Cover Position)
The defensive all-rounder was a pivotal character in the Indian team that won the World Cup. The deputy to Anup Kumar, Manjeet is an established star and a feared opponent in his own right. What makes him so? Well, his speedy tackles, the ability to bring down raiders in a single heave and play the part of an unlikely raider who only comes to the party when all others are rendered hapless.
The Arjuna awardee was in roaring form at the World Cup with 3 High 5’s to his credit and 21 successful tackles! In combination with the other cover defender, Surjeet, the two can perhaps form an alarming alliance which would hurt the cause of an approaching raider, for he can be sure that either a body block, dash or thigh hold is in the offing.