Iran end India’s supremacy

SAVING GRACE Indian women in action against Chinese Taipei during the kabaddi semifinal in Jakarta on Thursday. PTI

The unthinkable has happened, but for those familiar with the wrangling in Indian kabaddi, this was far from a surprise.

The kings of kabaddi ever since it was introduced to the Asian Games in 1990, India suffered a humiliating 27-18 defeat to Iran in the semifinals on Thursday to end with a bronze medal. South Korea compounded the sub-continental suffering, defeating Pakistan 27-24 in the other semifinal.

At Theatre Garuda, champions seven times in a row, India were caught napping by the Iranians who were faster, energetic, aggressive and supremely motivated. In contrast, the Indians were often slow in their attack and tentative in their defence. The result was a disaster.

As the game ended, there were wild celebrations in the Iran camp, with many of their women sportspersons also joining in in the stands. The Indians sank to their chairs in shock, unable to comprehend what had hit them.

Iran had been improving steadily over the last few years and in the last two Asian Games, they did threaten the Indian charge. The complacent Indians refused to see the approaching danger. The row over team selection and the subsequent court case didn’t help matters.

A defeat to South Korea in the group phase meant India had to be on their toes to defend the gold. They were very much under pressure from the Iranians who matched their more reputed rivals in the first half, with the score reading 9-9 at the interval. 

India started the second half well, with E Girish coming up with a nice tackle and Monu Goyat earning a point from a raid. But they suffered a blow with skipper Ajay Thakur suffering a cut near his eye during a failed raid.

A bigger blow awaited India when Iran came up with a super tackle to surge ahead 14-11. Sparks started to fly from here on as Iran started inching ahead further. The strength of the Iran defence began to show at this moment as the Indian raiders fell repeatedly in their clutches. Pardeep, Rahul Chaudhari and Rishank Devadiga all were sent packing by Mohammedesmail, Fazel Atrachali and company as Iran surged to a 20-14 lead. They inflicted an all-out to power to 24-14 and never looked back.

India will get a chance to avenge the defeat when they play Iran in the women’s final. In the semis, India defeated Chinese Taipei 27-14 while Iran beat Thailand 23-16.

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