World champions India will start firm favourites when they lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in the opening game of the inaugural six-nation Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018 on Friday. The tournament will provide an excellent opportunity for the Asian countries like India, Pakistan, South Korea and Iran to fine tune their skills before the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang in August.
Argentina and Kenya complete the six teams taking part in the inaugural tournament.
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All the six teams have been divided into two groups -- Group A includes India, Pakistan and Kenya while Group B have Iran, South Korea and Argentina.
The teams in each group play two matches against every other team in their respective group, with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the semi-finals.
As India prepares for the opener against Pakistan, it will be a test of character for either side that boasts of players who can change the game at any given point.
Star raider Ajay Thakur, who led India to successive wins against Pakistan en-route their Asian Championship crown in Iran last year, will once again hope for a victorious start to the tournament on Friday.
Besides Thakur, the Indian team also has quality raiders in Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal, Rohit Kumar, Rishank Devadiga and Monu Goyat in their ranks.
In Deepak Hooda, Manjeet Chhillar, Surender Nada and Girish Ernak, India also boast of top-class all-rounders and defenders to lend a perfect balance to the side.
Highlighting the importance of the new tournament conceived by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) in partnership with Star India, India's newly-appointed coach Srinivas Reddy said it will be a "semi-final" before the Asiad, starting August 18.
"This is the semi-final tournament before the Asian Games. This is also help us to prepare our strategy for the Asian Games," Reddy, a former India player told IANS.
The second match of the opening day will see 2016 World Cup finalists Iran take on South Korea.