As hosts India prepare to defend their World Cup title, a look at how they made it to the third straight final:
Lost to Korea 32-34
It was always going to be a tough opener for India, given that Korea was seen as one of the few up and coming countries in Kabaddi. Five of their players, led by the athletic Jang Kun Lee, have starred in the Pro Kabaddi League and had the experience and technique to counter an Indian onslaught.
Even though India led for most parts of the match, Korea turned it around in the dying minutes to script the upset of the tournament. India were in a comfortable 27-21 lead by the 36th minute and had manged to keep Jang Kun Lee’s threat at bay. But Lee claimed points in five of his last six raids, turning the tables on India. His super raid with little more than a minute left on the clock put Korea ahead for the first time in the match (30-29). The team held their nerve and the lead to edge India out.
The defence hadn’t stood as strong as India would have wanted. The team seemed to let the pressure off in the second half as they brought in widespread changes in an effort to give players on the bench some match time. It wasn’t the ideal beginning for India, the favourites for the title, but it was just the wake up call they needed to switch them into action.
Beat Australia 54-20
Playing only their second-ever competitive kabaddi game, Australia were going to prove no match for the Indian team's might. But the hosts, stung by their opening defeat, tightened their game to give the Aussies a sound thrashing.
India put their young stars -- Pardeep Narwal, Deepak Hooda and Sandeep Narwal—in the starting line-up and their hunger set the tone for a dominating victory.
Beat Bangladesh 57-20
The defeat against Korea meant India had to beat Bangladesh to give themselves a fair shot at the semi-final berth.
Up against one of their traditional rivals, the Indians proved they had truly bounced back from the opening day defeat. Indian raiders Pardeep Narwal and Ajay Thakur stole the show, scoring eight and ten raid points respectively. Though kabaddi is their national sport, Bangladesh aren't quite the team they used to be. They were all-out against India four times in the match and bar a few moments of intent from their skipper and lead raider Aruduzzaman Munshi, had little going for them.
Beat Argentina 74-20
Argentina, owing to their sports legacy, had won over a lot of fans in Ahmedabad. But these bunch of South Americans, most of whom are Physical Education teachers, were nothing short of suicidal on the kabaddi mat. They were impatient and not quite subtle, gifting away points in defence. The Indian raiders made merry: Rahul Chaudhuri and Ajay Thakur had 11 raid points each, and even local boy Kiran Parmar, who was brought on to loud cheers from the audience, claimed five points. As expected, it was a cakewalk for India.
Beat England 69-18
The kabaddi revolution in England has been brought about by Indian expats, smitten by the game they caught glimpses of via Youtube. England captain Someshwar Kalia had followed the likes of Anup Kumar since the 2010 Asian Games, and the respect was apparent when they had to face the strong Indian contingent.
England had limited weaponry and Indians shut out their strongest player, Tope Adewalure, mainly through their cover defender Surjeet. Their raiders again went home untested and with a truck load of points. India inflicted five all-outs on England and closed out the group stages in impressive form.
Beat Thailand 73-20
Thailand scripted a fairytale run to the semi-finals, beating Japan narrowly to top Group B. But the play-offs turned to be a leap too far for them. It’s where the big boys come to play. And the Thai team, mainly made up of University students, were handed a masterclass by the hosts.
Indian raiders gave away only four points to their inexperienced rivals, while plundering 42 points off them. Ajay Thakur, who has been India’s most prolific raider in the tournament, scored 11 points against Thailand to take his tournament tally to 52 raid points. That took him to second in the list of highest scorers in the tournament, which Thai captain Khomsan Thongkham leads with 56 points.
While India have been experimenting with their defence, and their rivals so far have given them enough space to do so, they would be encouraged by left corner Surender Nada’s performance in the game. Starting in the playing seven, Nada claimed a super five against Thailand. It wasn’t quite the test India would have hoped for going into the all-important final clash against Iran, but they seemed to have made the most of the time on the mat on Friday evening.
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Updated Date: Oct 22, 2016 16:51:31 IST