Asiad 2018: Indian men fail to reach Kabaddi final for the first time

A raid-heavy line-up boasting of some of the biggest names in the country faltered miserably when it mattered the most.

The Iranian kabaddi team celebrates its semifinal win over India at the Asian Games.   -  PTI

A 27-18 victory for Iran against undefeated powerhouse India in the men’s kabaddi semifinals on Thursday clearly marked the end of an era in the sport.

The Indian team’s 28-year dominance in the sport, in which it had won each of the seven editions so far, was nowhere visible throughout the game.

The Indians struggled to score raid points, they were unable to tackle the Iranian attack and were clueless about strategising and planning.

A raid-heavy line-up boasting of some of the biggest names in the country faltered miserably when it mattered the most.

India vs Iran: As it happened

A loss to Korea in the league stage should have set the alarm bells ringing but clearly the Indians were too enamoured of their own superiority.

The absence of Rohit Kumar due to injury and a nasty cut on captain Ajay Thakur only added to the struggles.

It was a balanced mix for the opposition that played mainly all-rounders but Iranian captain Fazel Atrachali was the key, defending with a vice-like grip that saw Iran claim five super-tackle points – defending with three or less players on mat.

“Maybe there was a bit of overconfidence, some of our planning went wrong, we had a chance to get an all-out but could not, our raiders had an off day and we conceded so many super tackles, it all ended up with this result,” a disappointed coach Rambir Singh Khokhar admitted after the match.

Asian Games Full Coverage

The team slipped away from a different exit without meeting anyone.

Iran had felt robbed of a gold in the previous edition, leading the final all through only to see India edge ahead by a single point right at the end.

It was clearly a grudge match for them and coach Gholamraza Mazandarani said as much, though not in as many words even as his players kept dragging him back to the celebrations.

There had been controversy and legal issues on the team selection even before the competition began, resulting in the federation being suspended, but another gold here would have put paid to it all.

As it happened, there would only be more scrutiny back home now.

Women make the title clash

It was, however, business as usual among the women with India setting up a title clash with Iran after winning 27-14 against Chinese Taipei in the semifinals. Iran got the better of Thailand in the other game.