So it has happened. The reigning and seven-time Asian Champions were left stunned by a marauding Iranian performance, failed to repeat the routine Gold heroics for the first time in the history of the Asian Games.
This was a long time coming!
That was the overwhelming response to the criticism of Indiaâ€™s horror-show against Iran. Ram Mehar Singh side struggled to break down resolute Iran rides.
The performance was immaterial, said the soothsayers. India swing themselves in a competitive mindset when the time comes. Against Iran on Thursday, however, it looked like they had forgotten to play the sport.
Kianoush Naderianâ€™s effervescent side swarmed to a deserved victory, consigning India to deny their record eighth Gold medal chance for the first time in the Asian Games history.
Changes will be necessary as everyone from to the Kabaddi federationsâ€™ head to head Coach Ram Mehar Singh will be in danger of losing their job.
In a match that had jaws slamming the floor, here are five things we learned.
Flawed team selection
The lack of balance in the side was stark as India were continually caught on the counter throughout the tournament. When going forward, they generally lacked both the speed and the precision to break down their opponents.
Individual selections can be questioned, none more so than that of Pardeep Narwal and Sandeep who were superb in the league but for some reason never perform at international level.
And playing with three pure defenders is always a risk. It had made sense at the Kabaddi Masters but at the Asian Games, it is just not as the Indians have not been quick enough in the body or in mind which was evident in the match against Korea but this Iranian side who have been threatening to upstage India at the world stage ripped them apart on Thursday.
The seven-time winners should have seen the red flags and heeded the warnings after the loss against Korea in Kabaddi Masters.
But a combination of over-confidence, stubbornness and recklessness turned into a toxic mix in their Group matches which saw them losing to the same team â€“ Korea during the second group game.
Both Iran and Korea have strong players in the Pro Kabaddi League. And what India underestimated was how both countries had caught up with them.
Obviously, most responsibility lies with the selection committee and the coach Ram Mehar Singh, who never paid proper attention to the signs that were already visible for years.
The team lacked flair and bite, and also the necessary skill while going forward, not to mention a backline that was easily caught out. It almost looked like it was symbolic of a campaign that was just not meant to be this time around.
Vulnerable defence ?
On the face of it, the committeeâ€™s decision to exclude Surjeet Singh and Surender Nada from the squad feel completely justified.
Ram Mehar Singh was boasting about his deep squad, but things gradually started to turn sour.
Going with just three pure defenders in the squad was always a risk but he remained confident that all would be well by the time they landed in Jakarta.
But there were issues with his selection as well. Inexplicably, he left out the best defenders Surjeet Singh and Surender Nada, both are arguably the best defenders who started in all the important games for India including the semi-final and final of the Dubai event and decided to put his faith in less-experienced Pradep Narwaal and out-of-form Sandeep Narwal.
While itâ€™s easy to say in retrospect, Surjeet Singhâ€™s pace and trickery could have been the key for India to reduce points against top teams like Korea and Iran.
As a result, the team failed to live up to the hype, playing a turgid Kabaddi which meant skipper Ajay Thakur could rely only on scraps, ultimately the team got exposed.
And against Iran, India never had an answer to the deadly duo of Fazel and Abozer. Both has steadied the ship at the corner and ultimately guided their side to a historic final.
Players like Rahul choudhary, Pardeep Narwal, Monu Goyat who scores multiple points in the league couldn’t score even 10 points combining in front of lethal Iranian defence.
What was once a scoring machine, playing indomitable Kabaddi, was reduced in Jakarta to a scrappy motley crew, lacking unity and unable to operate as a team.
Iran were superb and PKL played a part
Skills wise, the league has benefited the foreign players far more than it has benefited India. Nothing wrong in it â€“ thatâ€™s how a game is spread – but it is the fact.
If countries had a divine right to dominate sports they claim to have invented, the world cup would stay at home all the time.
The 2014 Asian Games loss to India hurt the Iranians bad, and they wanted to win the gold this time desperately. The Pro Kabaddi League came to their rescue by means of allowing several players to stay and play with Indians closely.
One of the Iranian coaches in fact, has even coached the U-Mumba side. Thereâ€™s no doubt it helped them understand and know Indiaâ€™s players better.
In Kabaddi masters Iran didnâ€™t field their two best defenders Captain Fazel Atracheli and right corner Abozer Meghani, thus preventing the Indians from checking out their competition right before the Asian Games. Iran were planning it in long-term while India were complacent and served rightly by Iran.
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Source: Matchday Frolics