You know the kabaddi juggernaut is rolling along when the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) organisers plan a quick ‘world’ event prior to this year’s edition (that’s happening late thanks to the Asian Games in August). You also know they’re doing it in Dubai only to get Pakistan on board and give the India-Pak kabaddi rivalry a new realm.
While 2016’s Kabaddi World Cup felt a bit farcical with the participant list bumped up with teams such as USA, Kabaddi Masters only features the teams that matter (minus Argentina), including Pakistan. Think of it like Champions Trophy of kabaddi.
While it’s a given that India’s PKL stars will earn the most attention, here are the other world-class athletes who are likely to do well.
Jang Kun Lee, Korea
Arguably the biggest non-India name in Dubai will be that of raider Jang Kun Lee, who will lead Republic of Korea’s charge. Besides the 351 points he has scored at PKL, most of them with spectacular leg-work, he has also been a senior voice of the national team.
Kun Lee carries with him electric energy on the mat and more importantly, steals points in back-to-back raids. This number four jersey is likely to feast upon weak defences.
Dong Ju Hong, Korea
Day one of the Kabaddi World Cup, and captain of the Republic of Korea, Dong Ju Hong, stunned hosts India with last-minute win over Anup Kumar’s team. While it seemed like team India were unnaturally subdued that night, Ju Hong got the credit for his composure under pressure. Later in the tournament, he even spearheaded a dogged comeback against Bangladesh as Korea went from 0-10 to winning the game.
Ju Hong is an all-rounder who has had considerable experience under fine coaches at Gandhinagar's Sports Academy of India (SAI) centre. He’s likely to lead the Koreans at Dubai again.
David Mosambayi, Kenya
Rugged physique, incredible stamina and a hunger to play. Kenyan raider David Mosambayi is a six-footer who’s been in PKL circles for a while now but chances are you don’t know of him, because he hasn’t got much match-time.
Last season, for instance, he spent most of his time being a practice raider against Haryana Steelers’ defenders and yet raised eyebrows. Mosambayi, who like all Kenyans, has learnt from the fabulous Laventer Oguta (and by watching YouTube videos) was among the top 10 raiders last World Cup.
Hadi Tajik, Iran
For reasons only the IKF President Janardan Singh Gehlot and other insiders might know, the Iranians will be without their PKL superstars such as Fazel and Meraj. Defender Hadi Tajik, who occupies the right corner, then assumes the ‘watch out for’ position simply because of his experience in the Indian league.
Tajik went under the hammer for Rs 11 lakh at the recent PKL auction, but that by no means would be a measure of his importance to Iran that has always had gold standard defence.
Amirhossein Mohammad Maleki, gold-winner at the 2014 Asian Beach Games, too would be someone to watch out for, simply to figure how he’d play after reportedly getting a four-year ban in 2017 for using performance enhancing drugs.
Nasir Ali, Pakistan
‘Nasir Ali, who?’ is a question most of the viewers will ask but to the Indian contingent in Dubai, he is a familiar foe. Ali has been part of the Pakistan team that India has beaten in the last three Asian Games.
While Pakistan, much like Indian Punjab, has grown up playing circle kabaddi with different rules, Ali — the all-rounder — led the Faisalabad Sherdils to the final of the inaugural edition of Pakistan’s Super Kabaddi League (SKL) last month. More so, he also ended up as the Man of the Series.
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Updated Date: Jun 21, 2018 13:06:54 IST