Entering the inaugural Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018 as the world champions and the favourites to lift the trophy, India lived up to the billing and delivered unparalleled dominance on the mat. After cruising past Pakistan and Kenya in the group stages, they continued their onslaught against the Republic of Korea in the semi-final and Iran in the final to run away as the clear winners.
Newly-appointed national coach Srinivas Reddy’s tactics were spot on and the team, studded with the biggest stars of VIVO Pro Kabaddi, hardly faltered in their roles. However, amongst the 14-member squad, there were some individuals whose performances added the extra zing to India’s preparations for the upcoming Asian Games. Here are the main architects behind India’s trophy-winning campaign.
India and Tamil Thalaivas’ Season 5 captain yet again proved why he is a deserved successor to ‘Captain Cool’ Anup Kumar. Thakur was India’s trump card in the Kabaddi World Cup 2016 and repeated much of the same heroics in Dubai. He picked up two Super 10s in the five matches he featured in, leading India’s attack from the front. Whenever the team needed their skipper, Thakur stepped up to the occasion and came back with raid points to bolster the scoreline. His captaincy was excellent and he managed to infuse within the team an attacking mindset, even when situations were tilted in their favour.
The Bengal Warriors captain from Season 5 is arguably one of the best defenders of the game in recent times. He has the capability to single-handedly dash opponents off the mat. One of VIVO Pro Kabaddi season 5’s biggest achievers, Surjeet has become a constant in India’s defensive setup. He is also known to have a sharp mind on the mat, which had greatly helped Warriors’ campaign last season, and is a positive figure to have on the mat if Thakur has to sit out. He continued to call the shots in defence during Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018 and held the line together at all times.
The man who had hogged headlines from the time the VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 6 auctions ended, Goyat had a lot of expectations riding on him in his national debut. Playing as a second raider to the remarkable Pardeep Narwal in the Patna Pirates setup last season, Goyat broke all records in the auction to become the highest paid non-cricket athlete in the country with 1.51 crores. Brought onto the mat in the second part of the tournament, Goyat seemed to be at ease picking up points at will and keeping the scoreline ticking. He picked up a Super 10 and was Thakur’s greatest asset whenever proceedings looked tough.
Another star in the domestic circuit and the captain of Maharashtra, Devadiga’s exploits in Season 5 and the Senior Nationals earned him a call-up for national duty. A member of the talented crore-club for the next season, U.P. Yoddha ensured they used their Final Bid Match to pick up the star for their club. Devadiga was named in the starting seven in a number of occasions in the Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018, leaving behind bigger names. He picked up a Super 10 and readily accepted the task of going for the risky do-or-die raids. With such a raider-heavy unit at the coach’s disposal, his selection over others reveals the faith the team had on him.
Girish Maruti Ernak
Puneri Paltan enjoyed a successful Season 5 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi, with the team coming wonderfully together. Though they did not qualify for the final, a number of players shone brightly for the squad, one of whom was Girish Ernak. His sturdy and dominant performance in defence forced Paltan to retain him ahead of the auction and also earned him an India call-up for Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018. The 27-year-old was given the nod ahead of the much-seasoned campaigner Surender Nada at the left corner, and he did not disappoint as he added two High 5’s to his tally in the course of the tournament.
These performances, including the players’ ability to gel as a match-winning unit, is a testament to the quality and talent of these athletes and it bodes well for Season 6 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi.