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Kabaddi : CAN THE KINGS BE DETHRONED?

It has been almost two decades since India suffered a loss in a major men’s kabaddi competition.

That historic defeat came at the South Asian Federation Games in 1993 to arch rivals Pakistan.

Indian Kabaddi team at practice

Indian Kabaddi team at practice

Since that defeat, India has totally dominated the sport at the international level.

But, is India’s domination of the game a true reflection of its superiority? Or is it a mere reflection of the poor state of rivals at hand?

India’s closest rival in the sport has always been Pakistan. At the recent South Asian Games in Dhaka, India struggled to a 19-15 win in the preliminary match over the Pakistani side but upped the ante in the final winning comfortably 29-11.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are the only three countries to have won medals at the Asian Games.

Pakistan’s future, if the results of last year’s Asian Under-20 championships results were to be taken into account, does not look all that rosy. They failed miserably, finishing outside the top four.

Bangladesh remains the only other side to have upstaged Pakistan at the international arena.

Kabaddi remains the national sport of Bangladesh, but financial constraint has paid put to their chances of dethroning the Indians.

Outside this trio of dominant countries comes the Sri Lankans. Like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka has not been able to live up to its potential.

Problems in the management of the sports federation in Sri Lanka saw the sport being taken over by an ad hoc committee for a number of years until recently.

That had virtually put a damper on the Sri Lankan aspirations. But the island does have the talents to do well, especially if they are able to tap into the pool of talent available in their armed forces.

Many of their best players had come from the army and they need to reestablish this link.

Outside of South Asia, India’s biggest threat could come at this point of time only from Iran.

The Iranians are physically adept for the game but still lack in technical abilities.

But they are showing to be fast learners and would definitely be a threat to the Indians.

Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and China are the only other countries to have played at the Asian Games but still lack the infrastructure to be a threat to the Indians.

While a number of Indian coaches have assisted in the development of the sport outside India, their contribution has been only sporadic.

These coaches were hired to fine tune various national teams before major competitions. While their expertise has helped in the improved performances of these teams, there is still a distinct lack of holistic development of the game outside India.

The chances of an Indian team losing in the near future is at best slim. If at all it happens anytime now, it would probably be because of the selection process.

The close results at the recent South Asian Games was not because the rivals have bridged the gap, but rather because India did not send their best available talents to the Games.

India has so much talent in the game, that even a third string team would be able to beat the best that is out there.

The Kings would still rule for many years to come, but it would be a reign over the weak.

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