Did you know that Kabaddi was invented in Tamil Nadu? Tracing the fascinating history of the game and breaking down the nail-biting final that won India its third World Champion title.
India made a dramatic comeback in the second half of the final against Iran, to clinch their third Kabaddi World Cup title. This makes India the three-time winner of a tournament that has only had three editions in its official format, giving us complete dominance over the world game.
What unravelled in the finals?
- India and Iran, two of the world’s most successful teams in kabaddi, went head to head for the World title on Saturday night.
- In a gripping and tense final at the TransStadia Arena in Ahmedabad, Iran drove past India for much of the first half, leaving the Indian team stunned.
- However, after a sensational second-half performance, the Indian team staged a comeback unlike any other, to clinch the game at 38-29, making it their third Kabaddi World Cup title.
- Since the instatement of the World Cup in 2004, there have been three editions of the tournament in the standard format, and all three have been won by India. Iran, disappointingly, have ended all three tournaments in second place.
- The heroes of the Indian kabaddi team were not mobbed like their cricket counterparts are, following a similar success, but they held their heads high nevertheless, as their win meant that they were now the unrivalled world champions of kabaddi.
Why is India so successful at Kabaddi?
- A sport that originated in the state of Tamil Nadu, Kabaddi is believed to have derived its name from the words “kai pidi” meaning “hold hands” in Tamil.
- The modern game is played across India and many countries in South Asia since 1930. It is the state game of 7 Indian states and is the national sport of Bangladesh.
- After 2004 and 2007, the World Cup became an annual event post 2010, where the circle style was introduced. India has won every single edition of the World Cup, across formats.
- This is perhaps because of the popularity of kabaddi, and contact sports like wresting in general, in the rural areas of India.
- In fact, even the circle style of kabaddi originated in Punjab, where the format is extremely popular. This is the major reason why India is currently leading the world in the sport.
- The intensity with which kabaddi is taught, learnt, practiced and prepared for is unmatched in India, and the grassroots level development of players and coaches, coupled with the infallible learning structure, results in Indian success on the world stage.
When did India surge ahead?
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- As the game began, India rushed to a 2-0 lead within 3 minutes. However, Iran soon fought back to make it 3-3 before the 5 minute mark.
- After that, it was a cagey affair, with both sides nicking a point against each other’s run of play, and the game proceeding on a tiptoe of equal scores.
- At the half-way stage, Iran led 18-13, but slowed down in their attack in the beginning of the second half. Once India zeroed in on Iran’s lead, it was only a matter of time before the men in blue made it 20-20.
- At 32 minutes, India were practically running away with the score, using their momentum to keep their conquests afloat, at 26-21 leading.
- With just 5 minutes left on the board, Iran tried a raid but India diverted it supremely, to keep their lead at 30-24. After this last-ditch attempt from Iran, there was no stopping the Indians, who bagged a 34-24 lead in a few minutes.
- With a minute left, India were 35-27 up, and were now focused on tactical arrangements and strategic play to avoid silly mistakes. The game ended at 38-29, signalling a successful second half comeback for the champions, India.
Where did the team shine?
- India’s defence were absolutely indomitable, with their precise tackles and unnerving psychological game. From time to time, they were ready to pluck their team out from a bad spree and turn it into opportunity.
- India’s raiders were no less spectacular, with darting runs into the opponent’s court and, a good awareness and prediction of Iran’s tactics. Indian raiders did not expend their energy too much in wasteful runs, and chose to wear out the Iran defence who were slow to advance.
- Both positions of the Indian squad were full of players high on form and morale, and skilled tacticians who placed their game plan above all else.
- Coaches Baskaran Kasinathan and Balwan Singh deployed the right kind of players at the right time, and did not rush their players into unnecessary tackles and raids.
- Tactically, the team was sound. Immediately after switches in personnel, India was able to cut short a deficit or raise their lead, almost at will.
Who were the star performers?
- Captain Anup Kumar had sent out a clarion call to all Indian fans to show their support and solidarity for the biggest game of the team’s history. He was lightning fast in attack, leading his team by example.
- Fellow raiders Ajay Thakur and Sandeep Narwal won the early points and, in a match that was as tense as this, especially at the finals, every point mattered.
- Manjit and Mohit Chillar paired up very well in defence, after the latter was subbed in place of raider Thakur.
- Raider Nitin Tomar was unstoppable, winning tactical points occasionally, and those proved crucial in the comeback.
- Special mention must go out to Ajay Thakur, of course, when, with 5 minutes remaining, he became the World Cup’s highest scorer. His form was splendid in the final, and he bagged 12 points from raids alone.