1990, Beijing: A new sport had just been introduced at the 11th Asian Games, held in the capital of China. Famous in India, as well as the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh, Kabaddi, touted to have been exhibited as a demonstration sport at the Berlin Olympics 1936, had made its official debut in a major multisport event.
Ironically, it was this very event that gave India its solitary gold medal in an otherwise forgettable outing at the Beijing Asiad, where for the first and the last time, they finished out of the top 10 in the medals tally at any Asian Games.
28 years later
Be it men or women, Indian kabaddi is now an emerging superpower in modern sports, almost invincible in any major international tournament they’ve played till date. The Pro Kabaddi League, modelled on the cricket IPL, has only propelled the popularity of this indigenous sport to soaring heights.
As such, when India leaves for Jakarta Asiad in August, all eyes shall be centered primarily on the kabaddi contingent, who’re the prime contenders for a gold medal at these Games.
Though India is by far the most successful nation ever in the sport of Kabaddi, with 7 consecutive gold medals in the men’s category, two in the women’s category and three consecutive Kabaddi World Cups in their kitty, the question still persists, owing to the growing challenges, the question still persists: can INDIA maintain their unbeaten run? To this, we have a one-word answer: YES!
India can maintain their invincibility at the Jakarta Asiad without any fuss, provided it keeps its current record straight. With players like Anup Kumar, Manjeet Chhillar, Mohit Chhillar, Pardeep Narwal, Jasvir Singh, it shouldn’t be a difficult task as well.
Besides, the august presence of legendary player turned coach Balwan Singh, who has led the India team to three consecutive gold medals at both Asian Games and the Kabaddi World Cup, would be nothing less than the tonic for the spirits of the Indian team.
The challenges in the road to gold
The road to the gold medal, however, wouldn’t be that easy for the Indian team as compared to the previous editions of the Asian Games. Nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and even South Korea have caught up quickly in this sport, which is growing leaps and bounds in terms of popularity.
Only two years ago, in 2016, India faced their first ever defeat in a Kabaddi World Cup, when South Korea shocked them 34-32. Had it not been for a spirited comeback, India would’ve faced the blues in a nation, which reveres Kabaddi on par with cricket.
Even the finals against Iran wasn’t completely a one-sided affair, with India managing to win with an average score of 38-29, completely contrary to their previous outings in 2004 and 2007, where they’ve won in the finals with a minimum lead of 10 points.
So if India need to maintain their unbeaten run in both the segments, they need to keep an eye on any team, that could give them a tough competition. If they manage to do it, nothing can stop India from clinching their 8th successive gold medal in Kabaddi at the Asian Games 2018