Mohammad Aruduzzaman Munshi, Zakir Hossain and Tuhin Tarafder aren’t names you’d be familiar with, as they were barely seen on court in the Pro Kabaddi League Season 4. Having toured with U Mumba and played in India several times, they know the Indian brand of kabaddi, especially Anup Kumar’s moves. Moreover, while captain Munshi is a nimble-footed raider, Tarafder is stocky and extremely athletic as a defender.
On Dussehra day in Ahmedabad, the Kabaddi World Cup encounter is a tricky one for India, owing to their opening game loss. If they have a bad day at work on Tuesday, they will fall to number three and might lose the semi-final spot to Bangladesh. And while kabaddi might be the national game for India's neighbours, their current team is in the middle ground between being a minnow and a strong side.
Banglas raise the white flag already
Surprisingly, Bangladesh aren’t exactly looking to upset their hosts tonight, if captain Munshi’s words are anything to go by. While he began with giving stock replies, it seems his heart got a voice when he switched to talking in Bangla. “For me, kabaddi means India. They have outstanding talents such as Manjit Chhillar, Rahul Chaudhari, Surjeet and Pardeep Narwal… we cannot think of beating this team!” he was quoted as saying.
The next-best scenario for the Bangla boys, it seems, is minimising the score difference so they can hope to pip South Korea in the semifinal spot. “We don't have a bad team comparatively, and we will try that even if we lose, the score difference is not over six or seven points,” Munshi added. Whether he is being an unambitious leader or a practical planner, only further games will tell.
Indians in a tearaway mood
On Monday evening at the Karnavati Club, a massive banquet hall overlooking a prestigious navratri venue was team India’s training spot. As we pulled Anup Kumar aside for a chat and told him about his Bangla counterpart’s lowly goals, he flashed his signature smile and said, “Look, we have played them in the past and they’ve been a competitive side. I don't think it will be a one-sided game. I’ve watched Munshi and Tuhin closely in the past season and they’re very good players… they may have a few new boys but we can’t take them lightly.”
Assistant coach K Bhaskaran too, during his live chat with Firstpost, did not undermine the Bangladesh game given India’s position on the table. “If there was one lesson we learnt from the loss against Korea, it was to be alert through the 40 minutes, even while sitting on a lead. In tomorrow’s encounter, we will be cautious and build a lead before playing attacking kabaddi,” he said, admitting that a loss could push India toward the exit door.
Given how hard the Indian team trained on Monday night and early Tuesday though, that scenario is unlikely. The coaches focused much on super-tackle formations and the Narwals and Chillars were seen giving all their might. ‘Phaad denge’ (will rip them) was a phrase that was overheard and if Team Manager Tushar Arothe is to be believed, the camp is already looking forward to the semifinals.
That said, in a game that can turn on its head in a matter of minutes, we cannot rule out a Kabaddi World Cup version of India’s shock defeat to Bangladesh in the 2007 Cricket World Cup. For many, this might hurt as much if not more.