DUBAI: India extended their reign over Iran as they romped to a 44-26 win in the final of the Kabaddi Masters Dubai on Saturday evening.
Both teams had reached the summit clash unbeaten and a new look Iran were hoping to give the world champions a tough time. The two teams were clashing for the third time in high-profile international contests, and the Middle Eastern country had run India close. They lost the 2014 Asian Games final 25-27 and two years later, went down 38-29 in the World Cup final in Ahmedabad.
But the Indian team, with Ajay Thakur at the helm, didn’t give Iran a whiff of a chance. The strapping, swaggering Iran players, most of who come from a wrestling background, were quickly pinned down by India’s all-round might.
Thakur, who had helped India turn the tables during the World Cup final, got the team on the scoreboard with a point with his very first raid. He finished with nine touch points. Iran, meanwhile, got their first point only in the fourth minute. India inflicted the first all-out of the match in the sixth minute, to take a commanding 10-3 lead.
While defence is Iran’s forte, the team had travelled to Dubai without their leading defenders — Fazel Atrachali on the left corner and Abozar Mighani on the right. The younger players couldn’t live up to reputation against India’s talented raiders, winning their first defence points only in the 13th minute of the match. That, though, was a super tackle, with Hadi Tajik leading the defence in trapping Monu Goyat.
Iran’s leading raiders in the tournament, Mohammad Nabibakhsh and Mohammad Maghsoudlou, were not as effective against an organised Indian defence. The depth in the Indian ranks has helped the team make an easy transition after older players like Anup Kumar and Jasvir Singh were phased out.
Weaning in younger players hasn’t been as easy for their rivals though. Having lost the semifinal of the Asian Championships in November at home to Pakistan, Iran decided to give youngsters some big-match experience ahead of the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. While their rookies proved up to the task against weaker teams at the six-nation tournament, they were given a bruising lesson by India.