For the first time in Asiad history, the Men's Kabaddi Gold medal will not belong to India. A loss to Iran in the Semi-finals left fans of Kabaddi bewildered and shocked. Many explanations have been provided for the loss, but little assuages the Indian fan, who is bereft at the loss of what was considered a guaranteed Gold medal.
The loss seems inexplicable, given the wealth of Kabaddi talent that was unearthed by Pro Kabaddi league. Pardeep Narwhal, Rahul Chaudhary, Rohit Kumar, Rishank Devadigga became household names and acquired huge fan bases across the country. Going into the Asiad, Ajay Thakur had a 100% win record as captain for India. In attack and defence, the Indian contigent had a enviable set of players available for selection for a 12 man squad in the Asian Games.
Was this wealth of talent amongst the reason for the losses? Considering the talent pool availability, were we able to select the best team? At a glance, it seems that our selectors focussed on attack, and some of the best defenders from Pro Kabaddi were left out. The absence of Manjeet Chhillar, Surjeet Singh left the burden of defending on Girish Ernak and Sandeep Narwal. The Iranian defending proved too good for our raiders, who were familiar with their styles on account of their participation in Pro Kabaddi League. Our defence couldn't muster enough points.
The loss must come as a wake up call for our selectors and team management, as much as the players, and should help shake off any complacency that might have seeped into the team. If the correct lessons are taken from the loss, it might prove a great positive for the future of the team.
On the bright side, while the loss signals the end of Indian dominance in Kabaddi, it also means that the sport will hopefully gather more momentum across the world. If this happens, exciting times for Kabaddi may just be beginning.