Name: Anup Kumar
Key move: Anup Kumar's special move is the toe touch. Making use of his long legs, Anup is a master of scoring touch points with a surprise stretch of the leg to catch the defenders flat-footed.
This move also helps him score a lot of bonus points. However, his biggest strength is his composure on the mat and his ability to control the team in tight situations. Anup's captaincy of U Mumba has stood out in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) and it was an obvious decision to appoint him as the captain of the Indian team for the Kabaddi World Cup. Anup's demeanour and leadership skills closely resemble those of MS Dhoni.
Past record: Part of the gold medal-winning Indian team at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games and the 2016 South Asian Games, Anup was adjudged the 'Most Valuable Player' in season one of the PKL.
Like many kids in his native Palra — a village in the Gurgaon district in Haryana near New Delhi — kabaddi was a mere pastime sport for Anup during his school days.
It was only when he joined the CRPF as a constable in 2005 that he started practising the sport more rigorously. Within a year, he was selected in the Indian team for the 2006 South Asian Games and Anup has since been an integral part of India's kabaddi set-up.
The sport got a shot in the arm when the glitzy PKL was launched in 2014. Anup was selected as the captain of the Ronnie Screwvala-owned U Mumba side. The 32-year-old almost guided his team to the title, but stumbled at the final hurdle.
The defeat to Jaipur Pink Panthers in the final of the opening season served as an added motivation for Anup's U Mumba side, and they stormed their way to the title in the second season.
Anup, who was at his attacking best in the first season, was a more controlled figure and exuded calmness in the second. The raider who thrived on bonuses and touch points in the opening season — where he accumulated the most number of points among all the raiders — focused more on saving a point and keeping himself on the mat for a longer time in a match. Anup's presence on the mat for longer periods proved to be the difference for U Mumba, who triumphed under his astute leadership.
Anup, who is now a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Haryana, and also a superstar thanks to his PKL success, believes the advent of the glamorous tournament has changed the face of the sport.
"I have become a star. Everywhere I have gone, be it Chandigarh, Agra, Jaipur or somewhere in Himachal, people walk up to greet me and ask me to pose for selfies. There are even some who keep staring at me and wonder if I am actually the Anup Kumar they have seen on TV. That's how much it has changed." Anup told Mumbai Mirror in 2015.
Anup's U Mumba failed to emulate their title-winning campaign of 2015 in the next two seasons, but over the course of the four years, U Mumba have been the most consistent team in the league. Captain Anup has played a big part in that.
Now Anup is charged with the responsibility to guide the Indian team to a sixth straight World Cup in Ahmedabad in October. India are big favourites to retain their crown and Anup is confident his side will emerge victorious yet again. "I think even if we play to 80 per cent of our potential, we will still win the world cup," a bullish Anup told Times of India.
Anup has had a stellar career, and leading the Indian team to the World Cup title would be the icing on the cake.
(With inputs from Star Sports)