Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: Which is the best corner pair - Haryana's Mohit and Surender or Gujarat's Fazel and Abozar?
July 2014 now seems like a long time ago. Amidst all the excitement surrounding the Pro Kabaddi League, not many would have predicted the birth of a dynamic defending duo. The sport by its very nature marvels at a stupendous super raid rather than an equally enticing super tackle.
Since then, a lot has changed for Mohit Chhillar and Surender Nada. Their fortunes have changed, their jerseys have changed multiple times, and more importantly, the expectations have changed. One thing remains constant though - the mind-boggling consistency displayed by the both of them and that too together.
For the past four seasons, no other defending duo has come close to replicating the kind of form Mohit and Surender have displayed, week in week out. To put things into perspective, in Season 1, U Mumba were the third-best defensive unit, scoring an impressive 158 tackle points. More than 50% of that (86) came from their corner defenders, Mohit and Surender.
Fast forward to Season 4 and they were part of an extremely wafer thin squad, the Bengaluru Bulls, who managed to score just 124 points in tackles. Out of the 124, the pair were responsible for a whopping 80.
As a result, their importance was felt all the more and they were among the players who delivered for the Bulls last time around. Rarely have we seen teams being so dependent on two corner defenders. Wasn't kabaddi always considered a raider's sport?
With the two Haryanvi boys enjoying a monopoly of sorts in this uncontested market of deadly defending partners, we always knew they'd be challenged at some point. But little did we expect it will be two pillars from Iran who would take up this challenge.
As a team, the Gujarat Fortunegiants have managed to score an impressive 83 tackle points in nine matches so far, and amazingly, 43 of them have come from just two players - Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani.
Not since Mohit and Surender have we seen this kind of chemistry displayed by a corner defender duo. However, comparing them at this stage of the league may be a bit premature. After all, it's Abozar's debut season and he's played just nine matches alongside Fazel in the Pro Kabaddi League.
Comparing them to the Indian duo, who've been together for five seasons now would only highlight the fact that the numbers are heavily stacked against the Iranians. But one component that's surely comparable is their style and its effectiveness.
Fazel and Abozar are two extremely aggressive corner defenders. They're proactive players who attempt to catch the opposition raiders by surprise by initiating tackles on their own accord. It's an extremely brave approach considering the fact that making the first move against a raider comes at a price.
A tackle not timed properly and you could come across as stupid. But for the past nine games, the Iranians have shown that being proactive is an extremely effective strategy if executed in the right manner.
Surender and Mohit, on the other hand, are thinking defenders. Rarely will you see them dive in prematurely into making a tackle. They play the waiting game. Even the most composed raiders in the league sense the clock ticking loud when they're up against the Indian duo.
It's a strategy that's paid handsome dividends. Coercing the raider to take the risk of attacking, immediately puts him in a precarious now-or-never situation.
It's all about timing and Surender-Mohit have mastered the art of a well-timed tackle. When they sense the attacker running out of patience and time, that's when they go in for the kill.
Hence, when compared to Fazel-Abozar, the Indians adopt a safer approach. Both techniques have their pros and cons. But there's no denying the fact that the Iranian duo has shown that an ultra aggressive approach too can do the job well, even up against the best of attacks.
If Fazel and Abozar can continue to operate at this level, they have a real chance at dethroning Surender-Mohit in Season 5. Though at this point of time, the Indians have a firm grip on the throne.