India kabaddi captain Anup Kumar will have the weight of the nation on his shoulders as he leads the side into the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup that begins on October 7. In an exclusive interview with Indian Express, he discusses India’s preparations, youngsters and his goals
How are the preparations going on… What is the exact situation in the team..?
Team is doing good, everybody is busy in practices and excited about the World Cup. It is a dream come true for new boys, as representing the country is the best feeling for everyone in the team.
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Being in a group where most of the teams are new to the platform, do you think India can dominate the group?
It is not about dominating the group, or the tournament. Firstly, every team should play to enjoy the tournament. World Cup is one of the biggest tournaments and it comes in a gap of four years. For some players, it can be their last World Cup. And, we have a good team, but we cannot underestimate others especially South Korea. They play good kabaddi and have a chance to make it to the semis.
In your assessment, who are the big contenders – besides you – to lift the trophy?
Iran. I feel Iran will make it to the finals.. They have a good side, and especially their captain, Meraj Sheykh is in good form and he is quite familiar with how we all play. Due to Pro Kabaadi League, now players know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is familiar with each other’s tactics. And not to forget, he has been a key player for Delhi side.
Any pressure of not just playing at home, but being two-time defending champions?
Well there is no such pressure on us. This team is a champion in itself. Everybody is confident and dedicated to defend the title. And no pressure playing at home. Home support cannot add pressure, instead it provides us the confidence to deliver and to play to our abilities.
Any worries regarding injuries ahead of your match against South Korea?
Obviously, we would not want any of our players to get injured before the match but it is not in anyone’s control. Injury can happen during the match also, so we can not run from injury, but all we can do is to be careful.
Any area where the team needs to improve? Any concern towards the weakness…
Not anything particular, but the coach is putting more efforts on improving our moves. Balwan Singh, who has been our coach for the past 12 years, looks after each player’s strengths. We have thought of couple of combinations to go with for the matches.
Any player to look out for in the World Cup.?
Pradeep Narwal, Rahul Chaudhuri, Deepak Hooda, Rohit Chhillar, Sandeep Narwal, infact all youngsters are to look out for. They are India’s budding talent. And all of them are excited to represent India. They will keep improving as this generation is getting more exposure then we ever got.
Is there any goal that is left for you to achieve?
Seeing kabaddi being included in the Olympics is one and the other is to be to be a part of that team.
Ahead of the World Cup, what kind of diet you have been following?
We have received diet charts from our coach. We are asked to follow that. We have heavy breakfast, followed by a light lunch and dinner, respectively. But on match day, after having my breakfast, I do not eat anything. Though we take a lot of milk, dry fruits, fruits. We are given strict instructions to avoid supplements.
Kapil Dev is a part of Indian kabaddi now, how do you feel about his involvement in the sport?
Kapil ji is a great man, and I respect him a lot. I have always been a fan of him, and I feel his involvement is good for the sport. And I think, such involvement of other sportspersons can increase the situation of Kabaddi in our nation. We need the same support and love that cricket and football receives. As it will attract more youngsters towards the game.