CHENNAI:With the 18th Asian Games around the corner, India kabaddi captain Ajay Thakur thinks the men’s team is on track to win an eighth successive gold medal.Backing his young team, the skipper is optimistic ahead of the event in Jakarta in August. “We need experienced players, but it is also important to have youngsters who are aggressive and passionate. I am confident that the team is balanced and will do well in the Asian Games.”
India went to the recent Dubai Masters with a number of young players. Success there has prompted the team to stick to them. “The win in Dubai has given the team a lot of confidence going into Asian Games. We beat Pakistan, South Korea and Iran. We are working on the mistakes made there.”Girish Ernak is one of the youngsters who has replaced senior Surjeet Singh. He played a crucial role in the Dubai final victory and scored the most number of tackle points. Ajay believes they have found the right person in him.
Asked about which teams could run India close at Asian Games, the 32-year-old spoke about the India-Pakistan rivalry and mentioned Iran and South Korea.
Kabaddi was included as a discipline at the 11th Asian Games in Beijing in 1990, where it provided India the only gold medal. Since then, the kabaddi team has never settled for anything less. Even the women’s team won gold in the last two editions, when kabaddi was a medal event in their section.
Speaking about Pro Kabaddi League, Ajay said, “It has totally changed the dynamics of the sport in our country. Most players were from poor families. They are not only making the country proud but also getting government jobs.”
Raid for Gold campaign
Indian kabaddi players are geared up to visit at least 2000 schools in 19 cities. Thakur, Rishank Devadiga, Rahul Chaudhari, Deepak Hooda and Rohit Kumar will meet students across schools. Ajay has visited three schools in Chennai and others will soon be seen in the same role.