India completed their hattrick of Kabaddi World Cup titles with a come-from-behind win against Iran today. The hosts were behind by five points at half-time, but Ajay Thakur produced the effort of his life to pull the hosts ahead singlehandedly and then took them to a 38-29 win.
India started the proceedings with Sandeep Narwal taking out Abolfazl Maghsoudlou Mahalli to open the account for the defending champs and Ajay Thakur doubled the score for India soon. In the third minute, however, it was evident that India will not have it easy against the Iranians. Meraj Sheykh went in for the raid, and it looked like an empty one, but Meraj asked for an early review for a kick on Sandeep Narwal. Iran opened their account at 2-1 as the replays showed Meraj’s touch on Sandeep. Both the teams tried to play defensively with the score moving at a slow pace, and it reached 4-3 by the 6th minute.
The scores were locked at 6-6 by the 10-minute mark, but Meraj Sheykh delivered a big raid for Iran in the 11th minute - the raider touched Manjeet Chhillar, Sandeep Narwal to send India down to three men and take the lead at 9-7.
India managed to hold to keep the score at 12-11. But then, for the first time in the tournament, India were all-out in the 16th minute and Iran took their lead to 15-12.
Iran skipper Fazel Atrachali led the team from the front with some brilliant raids putting India on the back foot. India committed silly mistakes in defence and attack conceding a 13-18 lead to Iran as the half-time mark arrived.
India came back to the second half with a lot of work to do but conceded the first point to Iran. But, they came back through a successful raid as Ajay Thakur got a bonus point to take the scorecard to 14-19. With India placed at a precarious position, Ajay Thakur produced a brilliant bonus to take the score to 17-19 after a successful review call.
Ajay Thakur waged a lone battle to bring India back in the contest as India handed Iran an all-out. The raider brought India further close with a point in successive raids as India drew par with Iran at 20-20 before he put India ahead to 21-20.
India then effected another all-out to take their lead to 24-21. That swap in the scoreline took all the fizz out of Iran’s performance as they failed to take another point for a while even as India raced ahead to 27-21.
Iran finally broke through with a point, before Nitin Tomar went into the Iran area for India’s do-or-die raid. Tomar somehow managed a lovely escape from the tackle and in the process ousted Abozar Mohajer Mighani and Mohsen Maghsoudloujafari to take India to 29-22.
With the score at 30-24, Ajay Thakur kept his amazing run on touching Farhad Rahimi Milaghardan, Fazel Atrachali to effect Iran’s third all-out and take India’s biggest lead at 34-24.
Having secured the lead, India waited out the game until the hooter to win 38-29.
With that, the hosts completed their hattrick of Kabaddi World Cup titles. Iran, despite putting a valiant attempt, were helpless against the brilliance of Ajay Thakur and found themselves on the losing side for the third time.