Rishank Devadiga, star of Pro Kabaddi League’s season two and U Mumba’s prolific raider writes about India’s journey so far and the impending face-off with Iran.
In Sangli, the heart of Maharashtra, we are abuzz with excitement about the ongoing 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. There may not be any player in the national side from our kabaddi crazy state, but us boys from the Mumbai team, in Sangli for the district-level tournaments to decide the state team, have more than one reason to support the men in blue. My U Mumba captain Anup Kumar aka ‘Bhaisahab’ is at his best, so the all-important next weekend is going to end with one big party, surely.
Korea caught us dozing
None of us here were prepared to witness a loss on the opening night, even though we knew that cracking Korea was a tough ask. I thought Bhaisahab’s footwork was superb through the match, and it was he who held together India’s chances till the end. But such are the charms of kabaddi, you cannot lose control of the game, even for a couple of raids.
In the last five minutes, Jang Kun-Lee stole more bonus points than we should have let him to and his three-point raid in the penultimate minute was the turning point.
Even Manjeet, whose defence had been outstanding throughout, was left rattled. These narrow losses can really hurt, but I assume Anup and the coaches rallied behind the boys to ensure they don't let it affect the road ahead.
The domination is showing
There is not much to say about how well we played against Australia, because I thought it was more about the Aussies playing poorly. Thanks to their elementary mistakes, we got to improve our score difference and more importantly, confidence. I was glad to see the entire bench getting a look-in. We have an A-class B team there.
The Bangladesh game on Dussehra night, however, was a show of pure domination. I have seen how hard the Bangla (and U Mumba) boys Munshi, Tuhin and Zakir train before games, but our ruthless attitude made their preparations look ordinary. Tuesday’s show of aggression was required for the world to know who owns kabaddi and who must have the final word on it! In Mumbai circles, we call it ‘lai vaat lavli!’ Our intent to win in a do-or-die game was a strong message to our potential semi-finalists.
The Iran plan
Which brings me to the semifinal everyone is talking about. If India win their next two games easily and Iran and Korea do so too, we will be looking at an India-Iran semifinal on next Friday. It’s going to be the biggest game of the season, a virtual final and its winner may well feel the World Cup trophy within grasp.
Let's face it, the Irani boys are stronger than us, so we will only have to break their defence using skills and tactics. If we play the third raid (do-or-die raid) well, the game would be low-scoring but sway toward our side.
It’s easier said than done, though. The team will be under immense pressure – from the Federation, from fans and from their own selves – to perform amidst the same people who have made them stars. Being knocked out in a home World Cup would be a shame. Anup will need to rub off his coolness on the boys who haven’t played on this big a stage before. I also expect the team will study the movements and weaknesses of every Iranian player before stepping on to the court, because the opposite camp will do that for sure.
No trophy would be deserved if we do not beat Iran (and then perhaps Korea, again, in a grudge game?) on the way to getting it. India are favourites and deserving champions, but only if we show up on the big night. Like my hero Cristiano Ronaldo says, ‘We don’t want to tell our dreams, we want to show them.’
As told to Malay Desai