Saturday evening when the Indian Kabaddi team made their way to the big finals, the hosts were under immense pressure to live up to the expectations of a billion people. Empty and unsuccessful raids in the first few minutes with careful tackles showed how crucial every point was. With 12 minutes gone in the first half, the score was 7-7. Nothing to differentiate between the two teams and hard to predict a winner.
Then came a moment of brilliance from the Iranian captain Meraj Sheykh who scored two points against India in the dying seconds of the 12th minute. Suddenly, India were trailing by 5 points at half-time (18-13). The home support had helped the team gain momentum but with the hosts trailing, the crowd had gone silent. Thoughts like India’s winning streak would be broken started to creep in. But as the famous saying goes, it is not over till the final whistle.
Nitin Tomar was substituted and Ajay Thakur was brought in the 21st minute. Little did 30-year-old Thakur knew that he was about to create history. Thakur, who hails from Himachal Pradesh, made full use of his height and skills to get India 5 points in the next eight minutes. Suddenly the score-line was 20-20. The game had all the ingredients worthy of a final but the final play was yet to come. Nitin Tomar and Thakur gave India a six-point lead in the next four minutes and the cheer was back. With just four minutes left in the play, the score-line was 30-24. The hosts were on their way to create history. The Iranians fought hard but like always fell short to cause an upset. The
Nitin Tomar and Thakur gave India a six-point lead in the next four minutes and the cheer was back. With just four minutes left in the play, the score-line was 30-24. The hosts were on their way to create history. The Iranians fought hard but like always fell short to cause an upset. Moments later. the full-time whistle was blown and India won with a 11-point lead (38-29). A proud moment for the Men in Blue to become the 8th time World Cup winners.
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) October 23, 2016
The Indian Kabaddi team has a 100% win record in major competitions and are 8-time World Champions now. Kabaddi, as a sport, was introduced in the Asian Games in 1990 in Beijing, China. Since its inception, 7 Asian Games have been conducted and India have dominated in all. With 7 Gold, India have been undisputed in the event. Bangladesh (1990, 1994, 2002) have been runners-up thrice while Iran (2010, 2014) and Pakistan (1998, 2006) have come second twice. Not only in the Men’s event, India have shown their supremacy in the Women’s event as well, winning Gold on both the occasions (2010, 2014).
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) October 22, 2016
As for World Cups, India have scored 8 out of 8 there as well. The Kabaddi World Cup is played in two different formats – circle style and standard style. The circle style World Cup is an international competition which is administrated by the Government of Punjab. The first World Cup was played in 2010 and has been contested yearly till 2014. On all five occasions, India have secured Gold while Pakistan have been the runners-up on four instances and Canada (2011) on one. The Women’s team, too, have been undefeated in the event and have secured 3 Gold medals (2012, 2013 and 2014).
The 2016 Kabaddi World Cup is the third edition of the standard style format. The standard style is governed by the International Kabaddi Federation. On both the previous occasions in 2004 and 2007, India emerged as winners with Iran being the runners-up and Bangladesh securing the third position. While India have been a dominant force in the sport, the fan following has been dismal.
WATCH: A day in the life of the Indian Kabaddi team
(Video Courtesy: YouTube.com/Star Sports)
In the ongoing tournament, India’s start wasn’t ideal as South Korea clinched a thriller to upset the hosts by two points (34-32). The Indian team came back strong after the initial loss and won the remainder of the games in the group stage. India defeated Australia by a margin of 34 points (54-20), Bangladesh by 37 points (57-20), Argentina by 54 points (74-20) and England by 51 points (69-18). Owing to the big margin wins in the group stage, India has the highest score difference (174) in terms of points.
India met Thailand in the semi-finals who had a similar fate like India before the encounter. They lost their first group match against Iran by 41 points (64-23) but won their remaining group games against Poland (65-25), Kenya (53-21), USA (69-22) and Japan (37-33).
WATCH: Indian Kabaddi team is ready to raid
(Video Courtesy: YouTube.com/Star Sports)
India beat Thailand convincingly with a margin of 53 points (73-20). Pardeep Narwal scored 14 points while Ajay Thakur’s 11 points helped India extend the lead. In the second semi-final, Iran won a close encounter by 6 points. Iran’s captain Meraj Sheykh led from the front and scored 7 points in the win against South Korea. Iran, touted as the second best team in the competition, won four out of their five group games. They lost their last group match to Poland by 16 points (41-25). South Korea, on the other hand, had been undefeated in the competition until the semis.