Kabaddi’s India-Pakistan rivalry could make for a thin book. It’s after all not really an illustrious history of which you may recall iconic moments a la cricket’s, such as ‘Jadeja hitting Waqar’ or ‘Sreesanth catching Misbah’. The reason being that until Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) revolutionised the sport in 2014, only Asian Games gold aspirants (i.e. subsequent jobs and cash rewards aspirants) and a handful of federation officials bothered about the sport.
And with India winning every single kabaddi World Cup so far (in both formats, ‘circle style’ organised by the Punjab government and the standard style) there really is no room to term the encounters as rivalries.
Here’s how the big clashes so far have panned out:
With kabaddi arriving at the Beijing Asian Games 1990, India’s first-ever encounter with Pakistan gave a sign of things to come, India winning 48-13 and going on to win their first ever kabaddi gold. In Hiroshima, 1994, their first encounter was suspended before India returned to beat their neighbours 42-20.
It was in Bangkok 1998 when future Arjuna awardees Raju Bhavsar (now a TV expert during the league), Ram Mehar Singh (the man behind Patna Pirates’ success) and other present day coaches such as BC Ramesh and C Honappa got India a 17-9 win over Pakistan and another gold.
Television coverage may have made international games more exciting, but India’s kabaddi results (and subsequent Arjuna awards) remained predictable. In fact, at Busan 2002, India trampled Pakistan 37-7 and bagged another gold.
At Doha 2006, where the neighbours met twice thanks to a new format, a young, long-haired Rakesh Kumar in a number 7 jersey made his presence felt, along with Manpreet Singh who went on to captain Patna Pirates. Both halves of the gold medal match were dominated by Indian raiders, another gold clinking in with 35-23.
PKL stars-to-be Anup Kumar and Manjeet Chhillar arrived at Guangzhou 2010 and it’s safe to say Pakistan were spared then as the teams did not face one another.
Finally, at Incheon 2014, the first Asian Games after the PKL wave (and hence probably the most watched), Rakesh Kumar’s India defeated Pakistan 23-11. Notably, Iran had by then become a stronger rival than Pakistan, but got beaten not only by the men but the women too.
A formidable India, studded with PKL heroes, last met Pakistan at the Asian Kabaddi Championships in November last year, and the record remained intact with skipper Ajay Thakur leading India to a 36-22 win in the final.
Now, with the Kabaddi Masters featuring a Pakistani side that’s also coming off its own PKL-style tournament, one can only hope the one-sided history can begin to have signs of a rivalry.
Updated Date: Jun 22, 2018 09:20 AM