Kabaddi World Cup | How India can come back from the defeat to Korea

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© Getty

Kabaddi World Cup | How India can come back from the defeat to Korea

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SportsCafe Desk

10/08/2016

Overconfidence in World Cup seems to be a trait all Indian teams share. In the T20 WC, also held in India earlier this year, favourites India lost their opening game to New Zealand. The Kabaddi team has followed the cricket team's lead opening with a defeat at the hands of South Korea yesterday.

India succumbed to a 32-34 loss to South Korea in their first game of the tournament after claiming that Iran were the only team capable of hurting them in the build-up to the tournament. For most people, it was a shock result, but avid followers of the sport will tell you the signs were all there. Here we will analyze the major errors in the lead-up to India's downfall.

Team selection for the tournament

Rohit Kumar outscored both Anup Kumar and Jasvir Singh in PKL-4 © © PKL

Let's start with what was the bigger error in the game - the team selection for the tournament. How PKL season-3 MVP Rohit Kumar did not make the 14-man squad was utterly baffling when the squad was announced, and the decision might come back to haunt India as the tournament progresses.

Rohit is widely considered as one of the top five players in the world, and his stats stand testimony to his impact. He had more successful raids in the last season of PKL than Anup Kumar(captain) and Jasvir Singh (Vice-captain). He is more than capable of winning games on his own as he has shown time and time again in the Pro Kabaddi League.

Another major blunder was the selection of Jasvir and Anup in the same team. While both players are exceptionally talented, they are very similar in their style of play. Both players specialize in controlling the tempo of the game, understanding when the pace needs to be picked up and when you need to slow things down.

Anup will always be the better player in this role, and therefore playing Jasvir was a place wasted in the starting lineup. Jasvir attempted six raids during the game returning empty handed five times and was unsuccessful in the other one. Anup, on the other hand, had 15 attempts at raiding returning without impacting the scoreboard eight times, but he did score 8 points through raids alone.

As this was the first time that an International Kabaddi tournament was played with do or die raids (PKL rules), India needed to pick an aggressive squad. As a result, the selection of Jasvir Singh and Ajay Thakur, who are old school players, over modern day raiders such as Rohit Kumar and Rishank Devadiga is surprising, to say the least.

Tactical naivete

Coming back to the game, after an uninspiring first-half, India still found themselves 18-13 to the good. Until the 31st minute, India had a decent 23-17 lead. After that, however, everything just fell apart. Whether it was the brilliance of South Korea or just amateurish defending on India's part that led to the change in the tide is a close call.

The 31st minute was the turning point in the match - Jang Kun Lee attempted a 360-degree turn but was tackled by Deepak Hooda. However, the South Korean had gone in against four Indian defenders with a definite plan – he had spotted a gap between the two defenders on his either side. Although he failed this time, the chink in the armor was revealed.

In the raids that followed, Dong Geon Lee tried the exact same maneuver and came out on top earning two points for his team and leaving India with just one player on the mat. At the highest level, such tactical errors will be punished sooner than later.

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Mohit Chhillar's inclusion in the starting line-up

Mohit Chhillar did not get a single successful tackle to his name © Kabaddi World Cup

Mohit Chhillar became the most expensive player in the PKL when he signed for the Bengaluru Bulls for an incredible Rs. 53 lakhs. There is no doubting his talent but after the disastrous performance against the Koreans, I would be surprised if he is not replaced by Sandeep Narwal. Mohit attempted just ONE tackle in the entire game, and that too was unsuccessful.

He was targeted throughout the game, and if he wants to play another game in the tournament we need to see the player that everyone knows he is capable of being. Narwal would still be a better choice than Chhillar in the next game so that the latter realizes his place in the team is not guaranteed.

Someone needs to take some of the pressure off Anup's shoulders

 © Getty

Captain Anup is just one of those people who you cannot hate. Yesterday, even though he was THE best performer for India, he looked like a lone warrior making his last stand. Reportedly, when India were suddenly staring at the barrel in the last minute, Indian coach Balwan Singh asked Anup what the plan of action should be in the last couple of minutes – that is how important he is to this squad. But he has become too dangerously important that this team appears capable of falling apart in his absence.

Anup Kumar effected 2 ankle holds in the first-half and accumulated a total of 9 points which, on any normal day, would have been a good return, but the inability of the other raiders (Rahul & Jasvir) meant that Anup's effort went in vain. Towards the end, he was under immense pressure to try risky moves while raiding.

The defeat is by no means an irreparable blow to the campaign. India still can easily make it to the knock-outs. The only difference now WILL be that we will be playing the strong Iranian team in the semifinals instead of the finals.

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