India’s kabaddi teams will battle it out for the all-important Asian Games gold medal on Saturday as the men face Iran and the women take on Chinese Taipei.
They will be favorites after a dominant performance in the final. The men’s team defeated Pakistan 61-14 and the women’s team defeated Nepal 61-17 to reach the final.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for both teams:
Pawan Sehrawat’s Indian men’s kabaddi team
As expected, the men were unbeaten in the group stage. They have four games to play in Group A, while Iran have only played three, including two on Thursday. But as one player said, “We just broke a sweat, so it wasn’t hard to recover.”
They eased Pakistan into the final with defending champions Iran on Friday. Iran, known for their watertight defense, beat Chinese Taipei 47-24 to extend their unbeaten run.
• Beat Bangladesh 55-18
• Beat Thailand 63-26
• Defeat Chinese Taipei 50-27
• Beat Japan 56-30
• Defeat Pakistan
The final is likely to be very close as players from both countries compete together in the Pro Kabaddi League and excel at each other’s playing styles.
Iran captains Fazel Atrachali and Mohammad Ismail Nabakhsh played for the Puneri platoon along with India’s Aslam Inamdar and Akash Shinde, while Mohammadreza Shadloo was with Sachin Tanwar in the Puneri platoon. Reza Mirbageri played for PKL champions Jaipur Pink Panthers along with Arjun Deshwal, Nitin Rawal and Sunil Kumar.
It promises to be a close contest between India’s attack and Iran’s defence. Pawan vs. Fazel. Islam vs Nabibakhsh. Arjuna Vs Reza. The storyline is set.
Who will India watch?
A Familiar Face: Shadlu. The Iranians almost took the game away from India when the two countries last played in the final of the 2023 Asian Kabaddi Championship.
Considering the captain, Fazel, will play at left corner, Shadlu may be given a free hand to raid. With his pockets full of tricks, he is a formidable raider and knows the Indian defense very well.
Ritu Negi’s Indian Women’s Kabaddi Team
The Indian women’s kabaddi team will face a familiar opponent in Saturday’s final: not Iran, but Chinese Taipei. Yes, you read that right, the defending champions were knocked out.
Chinese Taipei produced one of the biggest upsets in world kabaddi, perhaps the biggest since Iran stunned India 35-24 in the 2018 Asian Games final.
What makes matters complicated for the Indians is that they are yet to win even while fighting in the group stage. The teams split before Chinese Taipei put in a refreshing performance to push India to the limit.
• 34-34 tie vs. Chinese Taipei
• Defeated South Korea 56-23
• Beat Thailand 54-22
• Beat Nepal 61-17
The Indian women’s team will mainly rely on their ace rider Pooja Hatwala. He has lightning-quick feet, great reach and fantastic escape ability. Next is Pushpa Rana, a brilliant all-rounder. He traditionally plays as left cover but is also an excellent raider.
Who should they watch out for?
Chinese Taipei’s best player was their #8, Siu-Chen Feng. The tall and lanky raider got the better of India’s defenders at times and scored points at will.
What makes him so good is that like Pooja, he is also very quick on the mat and has excellent reach. He has earned most of the bonus points on the left and India’s Sakshi Kumari, who plays at left corner, will need to be at the top of her game.