One sport that has gained a rapid and sustained reputation in the nation even in the cricket era is Kabaddi and such was our history in the sport, nobody ever defeated India in a knockout match since ages!
No other country was ever crowned champions in the World Cup or Asian Games since their inception! Such was the dominance of the subcontinental nation! And here we are today, the nation that had been always seconded finally pushes the extra mile to pip the obvious favorites! The 7-time champions lose the semifinals to Iran at the Asian Games 2018 missing Gold for the first ever time.
Even though most of the media is satisfied blaming the loss for the missing of ace defenders Surjeet Singh and Surender Nada, this article is an attempt to look deeper into more subtler aspects!
Team Dynamics all perfect?
The success in Pro-Kabaddi league has created numerous stars in Indian kabaddi in a very less amount of time and how do you accommodate all the stars in a single team? Yes, its the same headache the Indian cricket team and some European football teams once faced! Here, it is a bigger challenge, given the more close-knit nature of the sport that continuously involves a huge amount of teamwork and intense emotion!
The solution the management looked upto was to have the right mix of experience and youth to self-manage the squads and captains in Rakesh Kumar and Anup Kumar did that pretty well with their allies around! But coming into the Asian Games and the preceding Four-nation tournament, the team clearly lacked a proper leader who could keep the team afloat on a single platform with authority.
Since Ajay Thakur’s regular individual performances inspired the team from the front whenever needed, the team never thought of a plan B! “How will we raise the team morale when Ajay fails?!” Ajay never seemed to have led the team as a “senior” rather was getting along with the team just like how peers do, which is fine in a normal scenario, but at least not, when you have so many youngsters hungry for the limelight!
And that’s what happened with Iran and we look like an unmotivated lot when Ajay continuously failed and was on the bench for long! Though we have on floor marshals in Sandeep Narwal and Mohit Chillar, we are yet to find an X-factor player who can turn tides in our favor in the raiding department!
Monu Goyat has been a good fit for this role in normal matches, but he is yet to do the magic in the big games and we just hope he grows in as the best fit with time and experience!
Coach rotations an issue?
Working with a team is a lot different from working with a team of superstars! and that’s where relations come into place! The highly experienced lot of grey hairs, Balwan Singh, Rambir Singh and Baskaran has been around the team coaching and mentoring them since long. But the decisions of the federation clearly show their intention to bring in the young generation of coaches along with this young team, which looks good considering the fact that gelling in between them is easy. They have named Rambir’s ally Srinivas Reddy for a couple of tournaments in the past year and he has produced results in both the assignments.
The team picture looked great from the outside and the on mat integrity proved it time and again. Trying to repeat the same, the federation has named Patna Pirates coach Ram Mehar Singh who has the experience of only working with 2 young superstars Pradeep and Monu (who wasn’t a star then!). And the way he was coaching game-time has clearly proved his inability to handle the team. There were intense disagreements that created a fishy scene of the team on-screen and there is no doubt this surely had an effect on the integrity of the team.
Even on the day of the final, when the team goes behind, we could see the coach lose his cool and shouting instructions and intimidating players, even when the senior coaches Balwan and Rambir were behind in the stands peacefully waiting for a comeback!
So is this decision of the federation to rotate coaches and bring in fresh legs happening at the right time? Or have we rushed?
Did we find the mix?
A raiding department like Ajay Thakur, Rahul Chaudhari, Pradeep Narwal, Rohit Kumar, Monu Goyat is never expected to fail! We even had deputies in Rishank Devadiga, Deepak Niwas Hooda and Sandeep Narwal for standby! Yet we failed, miserably! and the main reason is the “right mix”!
For example, in the Patna Pirates, Pardeep used to go for multipoint raids with the confidence that Monu would rescue him off the bench if something goes wrong whereas Vishal had the main responsibility to keep the score ticking with bonuses and go for empty raids, and this is how it works! What were the roles of our raiders this time? The team looked to have no role assignment, as every raider on the floor went in as a lead raider and it worked well against the smaller teams which never even gave a scare to bench our raiders but when the big fishes came up, we just got exposed!
The final saw a catastrophic downfall in the second half just because of this reason! Because Iran had a clearly visible role assignment with Mohsen Maghsoudloujafari being the lead raider, Ismail covered up as the deputy when our raiders cheaply gave away themselves in multiple super tackles by Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani!
We have failed to find the right mix and roles of the talent we had, the rotation and substitution policy of the team failed miserably and this is clearly visible from the amount of time spent by Rahul and Rohit on the mat! We need to get this thing right at the earliest, else there is just mismanagement of talent!
If we still complain missing a few names, the Iranians missed Meraj Sheykh and you always know what a threat he is! So accepting the above and rectifying is the best the team can proceed!
But what scares most Indians is the past, in which a history as rich as this was broken down to nearly nothing in a span of very less time and we never returned to such glory or even near! No, I ain’t talking about the English invasion! I am talking about Indian Hockey!
So, what do you think, are these just bruises and we’ll be back with a bang?
Or are these subtle issues an indication for the downfall of Indian Kabaddi?
Let us know about your views in the comments below!