Shock, but not wholly unexpected
India’s dominance in kabaddi came to a screeching halt at the 201■ Asian Games as the country lost to Iran in the semifinals. The Indians were the overwhelming favourites and went into the Games having won every gold medal since the sport was introduced in 1990. But the 1■27 result was more than just a rude jolt. It made one point clear: other nations have caught up, endangering India’s monopoly in kabaddi.
India captain Ajay Thakur was contrite while admitting the level of competition has improved. “Zameen asmaan ka farak hai,” he said. “It’s not like earlier where we could just go and win the title. I had never imagined that we would lose in such a manner. We had just beaten them (Iran) in the Kabaddi Masters in Dubai in June.. We had a lot of pressure on us going in as the defending champions and the loss certainly stings.”
Thakur also made an important point, that India’s domestic kabaddi fixtures are an opportunity for foreign players to learn. “The foreign players come to play in India for threefour months in a year and observe how we play. They have benefited and the sport has grown and now we have to step up our game,” he said.
J. Udayakumar, who coached India at the 2002, 2006 and 2014 Asian Games, said the team wasn’t adequately prepared. “We did not prepare according to our opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. That was the main issue. The Iranian team is a defensive unit and they don’t have a proper raider. The Koreans have a similar team, except for their star raider Jang Kun Lee. We needed to study out opponents better and analyse their game properly. We needed to work on match situations and prepare accordingly. Our overall preparation and game plan was lacking,” he said.
Udayakumar also rued the frequent substitution of raiders. “The defence was good, we didn’t concede too many points, but our key raiders failed to score points. The best raiders were frequently substituted and spent most of the time on the bench. They weren’t given a chance to
Turning the tables: India had defeated Iran by just two points at the 2014 Asian Games. This time, the West Asian side hammered the reigning champion 2718.