Shock, but not wholly un­ex­pected

Sportstar - - ASIAN GAMES KABADDI - SHYAM VASUDEVAN

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

PTI

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.

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