28 years. 35 consecutive wins in Asian Games. All of a sudden, Indian Kabaddi Team loses its first match in Asian Games versus South Korea which was what you call a heartbreak (23-24). The Indian fans had still their heads up after the team emerged as experience and learning of years came handy.
India walked into the semi-finals with a little fear that they realized they were going to get. The predetermined gold medalists of 2018 faced Iran and got their second defeat (17-27). The seven-time gold medalists, Team India for the first time will travel back home with a bronze medal in their bags.
Asian Games 2018 witnessed a lot of eyeball raising moments for the Indian men's Kabaddi team. The exclusion of Manjeet Chhillar, Surender Nada, and PO Surjeet Singh was a shocker.
A major shock was their replacements in Raju Lal Chaudhary and Gangadhari Mallesh whom a lot of ardent Kabaddi lovers haven't even witnessed their playing style.
Without any contribution from them, it looked as if the team lacked substitutions and bench strength throughout their campaign.
The team had a squad where many roles shifted, the corner defender in Sandeep Narwal played as a right cover.
An established raiding all-rounder Deepak Niwas Hooda replaced a left cover defender. Although the team carried a raider-dominated squad with seven in total, the team failed to establish consistency in their raiding unit.
The team's selection before the Asian Games was a major setback and a risky move indeed. The controversy surrounding the selection process of the Indian team as 'non-transparent' has raised a lot of doubtful minds which is likely to be taken into the call by the Delhi High Court.
However, it becomes quite hard to digest when one claims the Indian Kabaddi Team getting defeated on the international stage after so many years of the game's existence.
Fans witnessed a surprising change in Ajay Thakur's captaincy. Ajay as a captain is known for his audacious nature of captaincy who loves to attack from the first to the 40th minute of the match.
However, this time around we saw a lot of empty raids with the team considering Ajay and Rishank Devadiga into the do-or-die raids which was not always going to favor India perhaps. Even in a league match against Thailand, the Indian captain looked sluggish with him gifting away his point to the left cover defender in the very first raid without the agility which he brings on the mat.
India's defense failed to attain the right combination in their defensive lineup. Girish Ernak, who masters in ankle holds, his grips were loose and looked a bit more steady. Mohit Chhillar contributed a few tackles throughout the competition with his frontal blocks.
Sandeep Narwal whose agility combines with beastly force missed most of his attempts to execute blocks.
As a corner defender gets to add his speed to his arsenal combining with raw strength, there was a huge misbalance in Sandeep's agile defending.
The same misbalance brought difficulty much in Deepak Niwas Hooda. As there were no left raiders apart from Pardeep Narwal, Deepak Hooda shifted his role as a left cover defender. He had a poor outing at Dubai Kabaddi Masters, but his handy support with Mohit's combination tackles showed his aggressive defence. In most of the matches, Deepak blocked the raiders with hostility.
The Raiders, on the other hand, struggled against the South Korean and Iranian wall of defence. As most of the time Rohit Kumar was seen warming up the benches, Pardeep Narwal and Monu Goyat consistently failed to find escape routes through the chain tackles and diving ankle holds of the opposition.
The only plus point for the men in blue was Rishank Devadiga who brought quick bonuses and critical do-or-die raid points throughout the event.
Nonetheless, India is the home for Kabaddi and looking at the positives, the growth of international Kabaddi is remarkable. The building enthusiasm of people all around the world in Kabaddi is a delightful sight which the fans should take into consideration. People becoming passionate throughout different regions of the world is an exceptional view.
Although Indian men's Kabaddi Team are the first time 'bronze-medalists' in Asian Games, there is still no competition beyond Team India.
Just like how a sunflower blooms towards the alluring sight of a sunrise, Kabaddi will be the prestige of India which the world is accepting with deep interest. In the end, it is the victory of our very own sport, Kabaddi!