India has easily been the best team in the world of competitive Kabaddi. This should come as no surprise given that Kabaddi is a contact sport that originated in India.
India won the Gold medal at the Asian Games in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
India has also won all five Kabaddi World Cup titles (2004, 2007, 2010, 11, 2012, 2013). In all of them, India remained unbeaten throughout the tournament.
Can these things be taken as a sign of India’s unparalleled superiority? Certainly not.
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The 2016 Kabaddi World Cup contested from October 7 to 22, which is ongoing in Ahmedabad, is proof of that.
12 countries are competing in the tournament. In Pool A, there is India, South Korea, Australia, England, Bangladesh and Argentina, while Pool B comprises of two-times runners-up Iran, Thailand, Japan, the United States, Poland and Kenya.
Considered as the title favorites from pool B, undefeated Iran is in brilliant form already which combined with their experience makes them a tough challenge in the knockout stages.
Meanwhile in Pool A, India’s first ever loss came at the hands of South Korea, who show no signs of slowing down. This was a paradigm shifting match.
For the first time in international Kabaddi history, India’s victory at a tournament isn’t a certainty.
When the tournament began, India and Iran were touted as the title contenders. Many Indian players highlighted Iran as their greatest threat.
South Korea, who had a few stars from the Pro Kabaddi League, were considered dark horses at best. However, in the very first game, the Koreans shattered all prejudice and staged a great comeback win over pre-tournament favorite India.
Who would have thought? South Korea beats India 34-32 in the KWC16 opener pic.twitter.com/AfKjykaIQH
— Shahid Judge (@shahidthejudge) October 7, 2016
The win for the Koreans was no fluke – they had a strategy for every Indian player and executed to perfection. Their raiders kept on chipping away points and their defence hunted in packs.
With five minutes to go, as the Koreans seemed down and out, Jang Kun Lee rose to the occasion. They exploited weaknesses in the Indian defence to perfection.
One can call it an all-round effort as it was repeated against Argentina and Bangladesh. Starting as favorites against Bangladesh, the Koreans trailed till the final five minutes only to carve out a win in the dying minutes.
Team ethic, aggression, and resilience – the South Koreans have the mettle of champions
The men in blue and red are out of the shadows of India and Iran and are ready to not just challenge, but also beat them. India has at least one outright rival now.
India should go on to win the World Cup and they probably will, but the competition is slowly but surely, starting to toughen up.
India stands second in the Group A with 16 points. They are one win away to make it to the semi-finals of the event. India will next take on England in their last group match on Tuesday.
Will India rise to the occasion and step up their game to even greater heights and maintain their stronghold over world Kabaddi?
But the bigger takeaway is this:
South Korea showed India could be beaten. How will other nations handle this new knowledge?
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