Kabaddi Masters Dubai: Ajay Thakur’s brilliance, Srinivas Reddy’s timely changes key to India’s thumping win over Pakistan

Dubai: India’s win over Pakistan in the curtain-raiser of the Kabaddi Masters Dubai was a forgone conclusion the moment India staved off Pakistan’s attempt to mount a comeback early in the second half.

A Pakistani super raid had reduced India to just three men on court with their lead cut down to 13 points. In came Sandeep Narwal. He unleashed his trademark block to halt a Pakistani raider moments after Ajay Thakur had brought home a raid point. In a blink of an eye, India had recovered from a mini wobble.

Every such Pakistani attempt to build momentum was thwarted as India continued to rack up the points at the other end.

Thakur set the tone with his opening raid. A running hand touch from the Indian captain got things underway for the world champions in the very first minute. He continuously targeted the two corner defenders in an attempt to at least have either of them on the bench.

“Their two corners Nasir Ali and Wasim Sajjad are the pillars of their defence. Ajay twice got each one of them out. Without that combination, their defence collapsed. So I felt Ajay played a big part in the win today,” coach Srinivas Reddy said after the game.

Thakur amassed 10 raid points in the encounter. He was a constant threat and earned his points at regular intervals in the game. His early exploits meant Pakistan defenders were forced to pay him a great deal of respect allowing him to take as few risks as possible and stay longer on the court.

India never allowed Pakistan a way back into the game after establishing a big lead in the first half. Image Courtesy: Star Sports

India never allowed Pakistan a way back into the game after establishing a big lead in the first half. Image Courtesy: Star Sports

Pakistan managed to delay their first all-out and stay in the contest. They seemed to have Pardeep Narwal’s number who was tackled three times in the opening exchanges. Coach Reddy was blessed with options on the bench, but his decision to introduce Rohit Kumar as early as the tenth minute paid great dividends.

Rohit, like Thakur scored with his first raid. Pakistan struggled to sustain this two-fold attack and fell to their first all-out.

The form of Rohit and Thakur lifted all the pressure of Rahul Chuadhari who came into his own in the latter part of the opening half. Pakistan’s defence had no respite. As the half-time whistle blew, India held a 22-9 lead with Pakistan down to just one man.

The all-out followed the official’s whistle to open the second half and India opened up a 25-9 lead.

The contest was close until Reddy opted to replace Pardeep with Rohit.

“It wasn’t Pardeep’s day. I felt there was no point in continuing with him. I wanted his confidence to remain intact and decided to replace him. Rohit was my choice as he is a very clever raider. He has great ability to read the match situation. He slowed the raid down. The faster the raids, the more suitable it was for the Pakistan defence to time their lunge. Rohit came on and the game changed,” Reddy explained.

Similarly, the decision to introduce a more defensive-minded Sandeep in the second-half helped India retain the momentum at a time when Pakistan were mounting a comeback with a lot of conviction.

“Pakistan is a very good team. They have one of the best defences in the game. We have a good defence too. The Surender-Mohit combination along with Surjeet worked really well for us, but our raiders made the difference. Pakistan’s raiders could not match that effort and that was the difference,” the India coach added.

India always had more quality on offer than their opponents, but it was Reddy’s proactive coaching that ensured India were never truly threatened in the encounter. Every time he sensed any kind of danger, he was quick to find a solution. He was not afraid to take out players with great reputation. The team’s need was paramount.

Having depth in the squad is only an advantage when one knows how and when to use it. Reddy demonstrated that on Friday and India registered a thumping win over Pakistan, perhaps their toughest opponents at Kabaddi Masters.

“This win gives us a lot of confidence. Last time we had lost to South Korea in the opening game and that had put lot of pressure on us. I told the player we must avoid such situation. The fact that we were able to do that against a strong Pakistan side is very encouraging for us,” captain Thakur told reporters after the game.

India next play Kenya on Saturday. A win could put them within touching distance of the semi-finals. Despite win over arch-rivals Pakistan, India are unlikely to take their foot off the gas.

“We don’t have a day’s break, so we will analyse Kenya’s matches after reaching the hotel. The coach will have his plans. We have a big squad, so he will pick his team according to the opponent,” Thakur said.

Kenya would have to pull off the biggest upset in kabaddi’s history to beat India. With Reddy’s no non-sense approach in managing this Indian side, the task will be even tougher.


Updated Date: Jun 23, 2018 12:41 PM

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