Ajay Thakur outwits Iran to win India the World Cup

Ajay Thakur secured crucial points for India via his raiding skills as India defeated a gritty Iran to clinch the Kabaddi World Cup.

India lost the opening league match to Korea, but hit back strongly in the remaining league matches and showed remarkable composure to turn the tide against Iran in the title match.   -  Vijay Soneji

Ajay Thakur masterminded a memorable triumph against a spirited Iran with a terrific exhibition of raiding in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup final at the Arena by TransStadia here on Saturday.

Outwitted in the first half by rival skipper Meraj Sheykh’s versatile display, and down 13-18 at half time, India took charge of the final in the second half with Thakur’s sleek raiding skills getting super raid points. Sheykh had rattled India by way of hand touch and by flinging his right leg on a targeted opponent to fetch points. Once Thakur won a hand touch point against Sheykh, India took the lead for the second time in the match and then proceeded to dominate and win at 38-29.

Pardeep Narwal, who has been India’s second successful in the league stage, was off colour. But substitute Nitin Tomar rose to the occasion, winning super raid points that sent out Sheykh and Fazel Atrachali at a critical juncture. Eventually Surjeet’s leg-lock on Sheykh reflected India’s control of the match against an opponent that depended largely on Sheykh and Atrachali, both PKL professionals.

It was the third clash between India and Iran in a World Cup final - the previous two being held in 2004 and 2007 in Mumbai. With the third World Cup being held post four editions of Pro Kabaddi League, there was much hype around the event and there was immense pressure on Anup Kumar’s team to win the title a third time. His team lost the opening league match to Republic of Korea, but hit back strongly in the remaining league matches and showed remarkable composure to turn the tide against Iran in the title match.

Iran leads

Earlier, Sheykh did the star turn, demonstrating his cunning manoeuvres as a raider. Thanks to the five raid points Sheykh won in the first half, which included a super raid execution, Iran led at half time.

India took the field with Anup Kumar, Manjit Chillar, Thakur, Pardeep Narwal, Sandeep Narwal, Surjeet and Surender Nada. After two empty raids from either side, Sandeep Narwal won the home side the first point with a hand touch. Thakur made it 2-0, but very soon Iran showed its class by cleverly playing lobby to earn two bonus points and also a raid point when Meraj won a team review for his side for a hand touch on Sandeep Narwal.

Returning to action, Sandeep Narwal won the first tackle point for India, but soon the Iranian skipper’s electrifying display took centre stage as he put his side ahead by six points at the interval.

Fazel Atrachali excelled in defence and four other players earned tackle points. But eventually India showed its wherewithal in a sport it has dominated at the Asian Games since 1990.

The result: India 38 (Ajay Thakur 12, Nitin Tomar 6) bt Iran 29 (Meraj Sheykh 7).

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