Iran ends India's kabaddi dominance, former stars stunned

India's Asian Games semifinal loss to Iran ended its domination on the global stage and has left former players disappointed with the side's campaign.

Action from the Asian Games kabaddi semifinal clash between India and Iran on Thursday.   -  PTI

India's supremacy in kabaddi at the Asian Games, a sport in which the country's men's team has bagged every single gold medal since 1990, was put to an end on Thursday. The seven-time champion side suffered a 18-27 mauling at the hands of Iran in rather meek fashion.

The loss ended India's domination on the global stage and left the side having to be content with a bronze medal.

Former Indian team raider Ashok Shinde, who led the nation to its first Asian Games kabaddi gold in 1990, was shaken by the team's performance. “It's a very sad day for Indian kabaddi. I had tears in my eyes when we lost. The team displayed no control, coordination or strategy. It looked like the players just turned up and felt they would coast into the final. The team simply lacked the killer instinct today,” he said.

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Shinde, who vice-captained the 1994 gold medal-winning side, felt the loss to Korea in the group stages severely affected the team's morale. “The players should have been encouraged and motivated after the loss to Korea. However, I don't feel that happened. We have the skill and capacity, but we really need to work on our execution.”

His teammate and 1994 Asian Games Gold medallist, Kasinatha Baskaran, felt the team had to adapt to more advanced training methods. “We have to correct our training methods. We have been dominating the sport for so many years and have some of the best and most talented players. All we need to is to improve our training methodology. We need to use video technology better and analyse opponents better,” he said.

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Both former players concurred that the advent of the Pro Kabaddi League, which sees regular participation from Iranians and Koreans — the two teams India lost to — has made the Indians' game more transparent. 

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“The Iranian team had analysed the Indian players to perfection and executed their plans perfectly. They made elaborate plans to keep them quiet and did so with ease. We only knew two or three of their players because all the other ones were new,” remarked Shinde.

The setback will force the Indian team back to the drawing board. The loss makes it clear that India will no longer go into a tournament as a gold medal certainty.