Jakarta: At the end it was a heartbreak-pure and simple.
Just as Thursday’s loss against Iran ended Indian men’s 28-year-old hegemony in kabaddi, on Friday Indian women were dethroned in a totally unexpected manner.
Indian women had their chances, but over confidence cost them dearly as they surrendered the gold by going down to Iran 24-27 in the nail-biting final.
The Iranian girls played well and they were agile and fast, while the Indians looked bit unsettled and unsure.
The Indian women, who once broke no challenge from any team in the continent were suddenly looking unsure of themselves as they entered the arena.
Obviously the defeat of their men team was weighing heavily on them and it showed immediately. The spark was missing and the tension was clearly in the air.
Indian women were tentative and they could not hold on to the lead, which they had established in the first essay.
The Indians were surprised by the speed of Iranian raiders and stamina especially in the second half. The Iranians had a plan and they executed it with finesse.
On the other hand Payel and Sonali were effective with their raids, while the defenders also handled the tackles well as the Indians raced to a 7-3 lead when Randeep Kaur went for a raid. Iran gradually reduced the deficit to 6-7.
With the Indians desperate to make a comeback, the match exploded with excitement after the break.
Immediately after the restart, a couple of failed raids and some poor defending by India saw Iran tighten their grip on the match as they inflicted an all-out on the defending champions.
Kavita then fumbled her tackle which gave away a cheap point to an Iranian raider.
The Indians tried to make a comeback as Sayali took bonus to reduce the margin to two while skipper Payal Chowdhury took another couple of points in the next Indian raid.
But consecutive raid points and a successful tackle by Iran maintained their advantage.
The most dangerous looking Iranian was Azadeh Saidisiahbidi, but she was forced out after a successful tackle. Randeep though made amends in the next attempt with a two-point raid, pushing India ahead 13-8. Azadeh touched out Ritu and Manpreet and captain Payel was caught by the Iranian defenders as India led 13-11 at the of first half, Iran scored six points in a row to race to a 17-13 lead.
With just two minutes to go, Sakshi Kumari earned two points with a successful raid to make it 24-25 but Iranians held their nerves to prevail. Manpreet’s defensive tackle helped Iran as she could not hold herself back and entered the challenge quickly to give a point to Iran.
The Indians continued their attempts to chip away the lead, but the poor defence by the Indians continued to leak points as Iran held on to the three-point lead. An unsuccessful raid by Payal saw Iran increase their lead to four points.
The match was set up for a dramatic finish as Sakshi produced a three-point raid to bring the deficit to a single point and give India hope.
But Iran immediately hit back with a point in the very next raid before an unsuccessful Indian raid in the final seconds killed the defending champion’s hope of retaining their crown.
Indian coach Srinivas Reddy refused to discredit his team saying Iranians grabbed points at the last minute which turned the tables.
“We should have increased the lead in the second half but instead we conceded lots of points and that turned the tables on us.”
He, however, lauded his team for reaching the final and putting up a sterling fight in the title clash.
“I am disappointed, so is the every member of the team but victory and defeat are part of the sports.”