The tale of two Indian teams at the 2018 Asian Games: So close yet so far!

The Indian contingent has performed exceptionally well at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games with a collection of 69 medals in their kitty. This was India’s best show at the mega event, equalling the tally of 15 Gold medals India won in the inaugural edition of the Games back in 1951, in New Delhi.

Youth sensations like Saurabh Chaudhury and Shardul Vihan have surprised with their clinical displays at the mega event, albeit both the shooters were not even matured enough to feel the intensity of the achievement! But then there’s the other side of the coin, where we expected that the tri-colour to fly high than the others, but somehow our Indian eves managed to choke where it mattered the most.

Kabaddi Calamity

Kabaddi is India’s field of expertise, and no other nation has even pricked a nail in the sub-continental nation’s dominance at the Asian Games. But India’s shocking exit in the semi-finals in the Men’s event against Iran proved otherwise. The Women’s team also went down to similar foes in the Gold medal match and settled for a second place finish. Both the sides were considered the best in the continent, but the Iranian’s defeated the Indians at their own game!

This was the first time that the Men and Women missed the Gold medal which proves how India owns the sport. The Women’s event was introduced in 1990, and a sure Gold medal was evident every four years.

But, a dejected Sahilaja Jain who was not given accreditation in her homeland was given the opportunity by Iran last year. Desperate to prove herself, the Maharashtra based coach prepared the perfect plot to pin down India. Before the final, Shailaja said to the players, ‘don’t send me back to India without gold.’ The players did exactly what the master ordered.

Iranians have mastered the art to perfection and make no mistake, they going to jeopardise India’s image as the pioneer in the sport. To blame the Pro-Kabaddi League for the downfall of India is one of the ways to look at it beside other factors too. Indian Women Team’s skipper Payel Chowdhury blamed poor refereeing for the outcome of the match against Iran but also admitted that their willpower was battered long before they landed in Jakarta.

The burden created by the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) created much confusion ahead of the Asian Games. A petition was writ and filed by two former international players and Arjuna awardees Honnappa C Gowda and S Rajrathanam complaining that there was widespread malpractice in team selection for the Asian Games. The turn of events occurred just before the Asiad, and so the Delhi High Court was reluctant to get involved, but it was a massive distraction for the players. The players always had an extra pressure that they might face trials once they take the flight back home even if they bring back a medal!

This was very irresponsible from the Federation, and hopefully, it won’t occur again. But for now, if things settle down, Payel and Co. are eyeing at the 2019 Kabaddi World Cup to seek redemption for their show in Indonesia.

Hockey Hurdle

India has long past the glory days in hockey, an Olympic medal is a distant dream nowadays and there neither makes it significant in World Cups, but the ‘Blue Brigade’ is by far the best unit in Asia! A defeat in the semi-finals of the Men’s event against a jubilant Malaysia via a shoot-out was a disaster as far as India’s medal prospects are concerned. The situation worsened when the Women also failed to claim a top podium finish after a 1-2 loss to Japan in the final in spite of being the strongest team on papers!

Rani Rampal, the most experienced player in the squad as well as the skipper, would be thoroughly dejected. It was so close but yet so far. A loss by a slender margin was a bitter pill to swallow. After making a semi-final exit during the Commonwealth Games and a quarter-final loss at the World Cup, the stage was set for the eves to make a comeback in Jakarta but they were the second best. It would have been a memorable feat because the Indian Women won their last Silver medal in the event back in 1998 and the previous and only Gold medal back in the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games!

India is the top-ranked Asian team and the world no. 9 after the quarter-final exit at the 2018 FIH Women’s World Cup which made them the obvious favourites. After remaining unbeaten en-route to the Gold medal match and scoring a staggering 39 goals, it was expected that Rani and Co. would see all the way, but the last lap was a bit less than perfect. Maybe the expectations were ceiling high, but at this level, you can’t give excuses.

We gave everything we had, but today it was not enough to win the match. It is proof that despite all the work we have put in, our target is still far away. And we have to go on until we get there,” said Rani Rampal after the loss to Japan. Till the next time, we will keep on chanting, “Chak de India!”


Also read: Pressure by Federation subdued us, says Payel Chowdhury captain of women’s Kabaddi Team