Kabaddi Masters Dubai: Dominant India eye semi-final berth as revitalised Pakistan loom

Dubai: India will look to book their place in the semi-finals of the Kabaddi Masters Dubai on Monday with a win over Pakistan as the arch-rivals meet to kickstart the second round of group games.

Pakistan, revitalised by their handsome win over Kenya on Sunday, are expected to pose a much greater challenge than they managed in the curtain-raiser against India on Friday.

 Kabaddi Masters Dubai: Dominant India eye semi-final berth as revitalised Pakistan loom

India won their second game against Kenya with ease. Image credit: Twitter/ @ProKabaddi

Much to the relief of coach Nabeel Ahmed Rana, Pakistan will have raiders Sajjad Shaukat and Muzammal Hussain, who missed the first game due to visa problems, available for selection against India, having arrived in Dubai on Sunday morning.

Shaukat saw some action against Kenya after he came on as a second-half substitute, while Muzammal remained unused.

The Indian defence was largely untroubled in the opener as none of the Pakistani raiders made any impact on the game. With the addition of Shaukat, and return to form of Muhammad Nadeem, who scored 8 points in the first half against Kenya, Pakistan are likely to carry a threat during their raids, thus lifting some pressure off their defence.

Pakistan will be fresher going into the encounter against India as compared to the opening game. The Men in Green had arrived on the day of the match, before proceeding for the tournament photoshoot. The players didn’t receive adequate rest and the sharpness was missing from their play.

“We were slightly fatigued in the first game. The travel and the preceding processes took a bit out of us and we struggled to get used to the atmosphere. We won’t be having any such problems in the second game,” coach Ahmed told reporters after his side’s win over Kenya.

Ahmed was smart with the use of his squad against Kenya. He made several substitutions in the second half, not just to keep his side fresh for the game against India but also to give the squad a feel of the atmosphere.

“The atmosphere got to us a bit in the first game. We couldn’t cope with it. So I wanted to give all the players in the squad a feel of the atmosphere, so that everyone is ready if we need them,” the Pakistan coach explained.

The experience of a game against India, arrival of two new raiders and better physical condition of their players has put Pakistan in the best possible shape to challenge India and halt their winning run in the competition.

India, who had a relaxed schedule on Sunday, spent their off day shopping at the Dubai mall. However, Ajay Thakur and Co remain under no false impression that the game against Pakistan will be a formality for their talented bunch.

“We expect a tougher challenge from Pakistan, so we have to be on our toes. We know they would like to win this game after losing the first game against us. We are not taking anything for granted. We need a win to qualify for the semi-finals and our aim is to finish the job on Monday,” Thakur said ahead of the game.

Indian players breezed through their opening two games. The player-rotation and an off day on Sunday means the Srinivas Reddy-coached side would be in top physical condition.

Reddy though faces selection dilemma after the second-string side put on a great show against Kenya. Rishank Devadiga and Monu Goyat, who scored 13 and 10 points respectively against Kenya, would be pushing for starts.

Rohit Kumar’s impressive display in the game against Pakistan also puts him in the fray. Rahul Chaudhari and Pardeep Narwal are likely to be benched if coach tries to tinker his team.

In defence, Sandeep Narwal, who scored five points against Kenya, made a case for his inclusion. Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar are expected to continue their partnership at the corners, while Deepak Hooda is expected to play left-cover.

India head into the game as big favourites, but the Nasir Ali-led side would be keen to show the world that they aren’t pushovers. The India-Pakistan rivalry in kabaddi is a lopsided one in India’s favour, and if that has to change, Pakistan will have to play the game of their lives to upset India.

Updated Date: Jun 25, 2018 09:35:16 IST