India flex muscle with double gold

Reigning champions defeat Iran to clinch top honours in men's and women's kabaddi finals

India flex muscle with double gold

 The men’s kabaddi team faced one of the stiffest challenges in its 24-year long reign but the undisputed kings of the game in the continent flexed their muscles when it mattered most to wear the crown.

Caught unawares by a determined Iranian team, which dominated them for most part of an extremely physical battle, the Indians conjured all their experience and tactical nous to script a 27-25 win in the final of the 17th Asian Games here at Songdo Global University Gymnasium on Friday.

With their women compatriots reigning supreme over the Iranians 31-21 in the preceding clash, it was a double glory for the Indians for the second straight Asiad.

“It’s a fantastic day,” said men’s team coach Balwan Singh. “It’s two gold medals yet again and that is amazing. There was pressure on us to win the gold as we were considered favourites. We have won the gold for the seventh straight time and it shows our hunger has not died down one bit.”

Playing a team that invented the game and has dominated it without relinquishing their throne, Iran had no choice but to go all out against the Indians. Combining their physicality with a high-energy approach, they started the game in roaring fashion, opening up a 13-7 lead in quick time.

Raiders Meraj Sheykh and Hadi Oshtorak had the Indians in all sorts of trouble, effecting one successful raid after another with each triumphant one ending with a fist-pump. They hardly gave the bewildered Indians any breathing time, the smash and grab ploy working to the hilt.

Indians, strangely, too got sucked into the Iranians trap, losing their mind in the noisy arena. Raiders Jasvir Singh and Ajay Thakur failed to make much of an impact against the Iranian defence, who showed great anticipation and speed in taking them out.

Leading 21-13 at halftime and looking confident, it appeared as if the Iranians would accomplish what many others have failed to achieve.

With their backs to the wall, the Indians then came storming back in the second half, their vast experience and technical superiority simply prevailing over the battling Iranians. They cut down the lead to 19-21 in a matter of minutes following Ajay Thakur’s two-point raid and a lona. Despite the pressure back on them and the Indians gaining ascendancy, the Iranians maintained their cool to always stay marginally ahead.

However, the script began to change when the Indians hit the front at 25-24 for the first time in the contest with three and a half minutes left, thanks to Anup’s raid. It became 26-24 when Indians took down Gholamabbas Korouki but Anup almost appeared to have spoilt all his good work when he fell prey to a fine Iranian dummy.

The contest sat on a knife’s-edge when Iranian captain Fazel Atrachali entered the Indian box with his side trailing by just one point. Trying his best to cause a stunner, the skipper went for broke but the Indians swarmed all over him before taking him down for a hard-fought win.

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