Anup Kumar (India): One of the most recognisable faces of Indian kabaddi, Kumar aka ‘Captain Cool’ had missed out on the 2007 world cup due to injury, but is ready this time around to lead the Indian team against the world. A top-class raider, known for his toe-touch and his efficiency to win bonus points, Kumar is a master tactician. The 33-year-old, who admits that he has become slower with age, still goes in to attack but has learnt to pull back as and when required. His presence on the mat is more crucial than ever.
Rahul Chaudhuri (India): He might have featured in a cheesy music video, but don’t hold that against Pro-Kabaddi’s glamour boy. After bursting onto the stage in the opening season of Pro-Kabaddi, Chaudhuri took some time to adjust to the fame and recognition. But he was back in top form in fourth season of the league, scoring the most number of successful raids (110) and the most raid points (146). The 23-year-old is likely to be India’s lead raider in the world cup campaign.
Pardeep Narwal (India): One of the biggest names to come through Pro-Kabaddi in the last two seasons, Narwal has been the most effective raider in the league, leading his team Patna Pirates to two successive titles. He had the most (116) raid points in season three and 131 points in season four, the second highest in the league. The 19-year-old, famous for his ‘dubki’ move, is young and fearless and all set to rock the international stage.
Manjeet Chhillar (India): Chhillar is player who constantly treads the thin line between aggression and over-confidence. But such is his hold on technique and skill that he rarely fluffs this line. He is India’s best all-round option, and is very solid in defence, especially in advance moves. With a background in wrestling, Chhillar’s upper body strength and grip, when he tackles a raider, is almost unbeatable. The 30-year-old is one of India’s most experienced campaigners.
Mohit Chhillar (India): A right-corner defender - Mohit Chhillar - was so crucial to U Mumba’s success in the first three seasons that he went on to become the most expensive player when the teams went through an overhaul ahead of the fourth season. Mohit, who currently plays for the Bengaluru Bulls, is vocal and reliable and times his tackles to perfection.
Surender Nada (India): He, along with Mohit Chhillar, makes up one of the most dreaded defensive partnerships. Nada also moved to the Bengaluru franchise in the fourth season with Chhillar. The older, quieter Nada is a perfect foil in the left corner for Chhillar. He brings years of experience on the mat and helps calm the nerves down.
Meraj Sheykh (Iran): Named the captain for the 2016 world cup, Sheykh personifies the aggression that has seen Iran rise quickly through the ranks. His athleticism has made him a hit in the Pro Kabaddi League, first with the Telugu Titans and then with Dabang Delhi. The frog jump is his go-to move while evading defenders. The all-rounder might be utilised in attack in the Iran team, given that raiding is one of their weaknesses.
Fazel Atrachali (Iran): The defender exudes strength. Though he played second fiddle to Nada in the U Mumba set up, Atrachali shone in the right-corner when Nada was out due to injury. Atrachali rarely makes a reckless move, but when he commits to a tackle it is with an iron grip. The powerful Irani is known for bringing down raiders single-handedly.
Jang-Kun Lee (South Korea): Lee might struggle to understand Indian languages but little is lost in translation when he steps in to play the ancient Indian sport. The tall (6’1) raider uses his reach with great effect. He has a foundation in taekwondo, which not only means that he has strong legs, an ability to translates some of the skills, like the back-kick, to kabaddi, but also that his body is prepared for combat. He’s by far the most popular non-Indian player in Pro Kabaddi League and will spearhead the Korean attack during the world cup.
Simon Kibura (Kenya): Though his first introduction to the game was through the circle format, Kibura has risen to become Kenya’s most famous export on the kabaddi mat. He spent the first three seasons of Pro Kabaddi League with the Puneri Paltan and shifted to Bengal Warriors in the fourth. The tall, athletic raider didn’t get too many chances then but he will be itching to lead his team and nation into the unknown territory of world cup kabaddi. Back home, Kibura spends a lot of time telling others about the sport and coaching youngsters.
Michal Spiczko (Poland): The International Kabaddi Federation has tried to take the game further than its South Asian home, and its physical manifestation came in the form of Spiczko. The Polish player was signed by the Bengaluru Bulls in the second season of Pro Kabaddi League. While he spent most of his time in the League on the bench, he has seen the best in business up close and personal. That experience will come handy for the Polish team, which is making its debut at the world cup. While he’s not in India playing kabaddi, Spiczko plays American football, another brutal contact sport.