PKL not to blame for Asian Games loss, says Ajay Thakur

The Indian men's kabaddi team's perfect record of seven gold medals in as many editions came to an abrupt end at the Jakarta Asiad when the side lost to Iran in the semifinals.

Iranian players take down raider Monu Goyat during India's semifinal match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta.   -  PTI

The Indian men's kabaddi team's perfect record of seven gold medals in as many editions of the Asian Games came to an abrupt end when the side succumbed to Iran in the semifinals of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

Along with the semifinal loss, the men's team had also lost to Korea in the group stages. One common element in both these losses is that both of India's defeats came against nations whose players ply their trade in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). The most popular among these are Korea's Jang Kun Lee, who represents Bengal Warriors, and Iranians Fazel Atrachali (U Mumba) and Abozar Mighani (Telugu Titans).

Read: Kabaddi debacle could have been avoided, says India’s ex-coach

This opened up room for debate, whether PKL 'exposed' the Indian players to their foreign counterparts and allowed them to determine their techniques and tactics.

But the Indian kabaddi captain, Ajay Thakur doesn't agree. “PKL is very important for the growth of kabaddi. The cricket team also loses matches but people continue to support them. This is because the country plays so much cricket. When something similar is happening in kabaddi, people don’t like it. It's unfair to blame PKL for the loss,” the 32-year-old told Sportstar.

New lease of life

“I have been playing kabaddi since 2007 and the reason the sport has advanced so far is because of PKL. Before the advent of PKL the players had nothing. Players were shy earlier to say they were kabaddi players. The league has provided players and the sport a new lease of life,” he said.

Also read: Iran prepared for Asian Games gold extensively, says former player Bhavsar

“Earlier nobody knew if we won or lost, nobody knew when we played. Today our loss is the talk of the town. People are watching us on TV and are noticing us. We have lost earlier too but no one really bothered but people are talking about it now. Foreigners come to play with us for 3-4 months in a year and observe how we play. They have benefitted but the game has grown. We have lost but this is a boost for the sport,” he continued.

Thakur, who will next be seen in action with the Tamil Thalaivas, also noted the increase in competition on the global scale. “The level of competition has really increased, zameen asmaan ka farak hai. It’s not like earlier where we could just go and win the title. We had a lot of pressure on us going in as the defending champion and the loss certainly stings,” he said.