Australia endured a difficult time on Saturday when they took on India in their opening match of the Kabaddi World Cup here. They were walloped 54-20 by the Asian powerhouse, a result that took no one by surprise. After all, nobody expected a team that was formed less than a month before the tournament to just turn up and run their illustrious opponents roughshod.
The Aussies should have put up a better performance against another inexperienced side, England, in their next outing but failed to do so. However, on Wednesday, they made amends against fellow debutants Argentina, winning 68-45.
It was with the purpose of bridging the huge divide between nations like India, Iran, South Korea and Bangladesh, who have been playing kabaddi for decades, and new teams like Australia, Kenya and Argentina that the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) decided to provide Indian coaches to them prior to the tournament.
And, with whatever little time they have had at their disposal, the likes of Navneet Gautam (with Australia), BC Ramesh (Argentina) and RS Khokhar (Kenya) have done their best to get their respective teams ready for the World Cup, which is trying to win over global audiences through innovations in the rules of the sport and broadcasting.
“I reached Melbourne on September 5, and got down to putting together a team for the World Cup. It was a difficult task as kabaddi is not known there. We went for players from the Australian Rules Football leagues and tried them out for the team. Most of them responded very positively and that’s how the team was formed,” Gautam told TOI. “We have trained together for about three weeks and all the players are giving their best,” added the two-time Asian gold medallist, and a defender with the Jaipur Pink Panthers. On the other hand, Ramesh joined the Argentinians only on September 28, a day after they arrived in Ahmedabad for the tournament. “They have support staff, so my job was only to guide them as an expert,” said the coach, and two-time Asian Games gold medallist.
In the short time that he has spent with the team, Ramesh has focused on creating awareness about the rules of the sport, helping them with their movement on the mat, and educating them about the sport. “I have been showing them a lot of videos involving teams like India and Korea and trying to teach them the basics,” he explained.
So, do these coaches see potential in the boys? “Of course. I know Australia will not make much of an impression this time, but once they have a sound structure in place, they will be a far better team for the next World Cup in 2018. I have put forward a few proposals of how we can go about creating a culture of kabaddi in Australia to the IKF. Let’s see how they respond,” said Gautam.
Ramesh too feels that Argentina have some talented players and can become a competitive side. “I have observed that the boys are enthusiastic about the sport. If they are given adequate support, I am sure they too can form a strong side,” he said.