Shyam Vasudevan3 Minute Read
In the end, it was all about Mohammadreza Shadlou. Iran’s captain turned hero to villain as a rookie error saw India beat Iran 42-32 and defend their Asian Kabaddi Championships title in Busan on Thursday.
India remained unbeaten throughout the tournament, a good sign ahead of the Asian Games later this year. Iran, which fielded a second-string side in this competition, were impressive but failed to come through in clutch moments.
Fresh from Wednesday’s narrow defeat, Iran set the tempo for the final from the get-go as India captain Pawan Kumar Sehrawat was tackled off the mat by Ghaffari Saeid. Iran made it clear that they meant business.
Some of the frustration from their previous game spilt into the final as both captains received a warning, with just four minutes played, to keep their teams in check. Iran led 3-1 at this point, and that was the last time they would be in the lead.
Team 🇮🇳 Asian CHAMPIONS 🏆!
With the score of 42-32 in the final match against 🇮🇷, Team 🇮🇳 retains the Asian Kabaddi Championship Title!
Kudos to the entire team 🥳
Well played boys👏💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/UzAgnpEuFR
– SAI Media (@Media_SAI) June 30, 2023
Two superb tackles – from Nitesh Kumar and then Parvesh Bhainswal – saw India soar ahead and the raiders soon joined the party. Aslam Inamdar picked up a couple of points while Pawan took out the Iran defence to get the All Out.
The momentum had shifted and India led 10-4 with 10 minutes played.
Arjun Deshwal, the best raider of the ninth season of the Pro Kabaddi League, then got a phenomenal three-point raid to give India a 10-point cushion. Tempers flared between the two teams once again and the Indians were issued a green card warning. Pawan cleaned up two of the three remaining Iranian players and then executed a perfect ankle hold on Ekrami Heiderali as India went into the interval with a healthy 12-point lead.
Much like Wednesday, the Indians got complacent in the second half, even as they remained ahead courtesy of Aslam and Pawan. With 14 minutes left, they led 33-14.
Surely, a lead of 19 points was enough to see out the game? It wasn’t.
The Indian team were caught short by the raider in Shadlou. The Iranian switched from a left corner position and took over raiding duties. He began with a two-point raid on Nitesh Kumar and Mohit Goyat and wiped out the entire Indian defence in his next raid.
He outsmarted all three defenders – Parvesh Bhainswal, Aslam and Nitin Rawal – to get the All Out and five massive points. India still had the lead, but the cracks began to appear.
The raiders suddenly failed to find their footing and Shadlou’s side upped the pressure. India’s lead kept diminishing and Iran could almost smell a victory.
With two minutes on the clock, the Iranian skipper had faced three defenders. He got past one, but was quickly tackled by the other two. However, Nitesh, who had tackled Shadlou, had stepped out of bounds so the Iranians were awarded a point and Shadou remained on the mat.
With less than a minute to go, Shadlou had another opportunity. The easiest of them all. Iran trailed by eight points. There was only one Indian on the mat – Aslam. All Shadlou had to do was tag him and Iran would get three points.
Then came the brain fade. Shadlou, in an attempt to tell Aslam he had tagged him, stopped saying kabaddi [which players have to say for the entire duration of a raid]. It was a rookie mistake, which was caught by the Indian bench.
The referee awarded two points to India for a Super Tackle and that was that. Shadlou, with a silly error, had ended his team’s chances of the title.
It was a win that the Indians can rightfully celebrate, but it was far from convincing. This was just the Iranian second-string team that they managed to edge past, the main team is waiting for them at the Asian Games in September.