Ahmedabad, Oct 22 (IANS) India fought off a tough challenge from Iran to win their third successive Kabaddi World Cup at the TransStadia Arena here on Saturday.
In perhaps the most exciting match of this World Cup, the Indians overturned a first-half deficit with a superb second-half performance to win 38-29.
India have thus won all the three Kabaddi World Cups held so far. They have beaten Iran in the finals of all the three editions.
India had earlier clinched the 2004 and 2007 editions of the Kabaddi World Cup.
The experienced Ajay Thakur played a crucial role in India's win with his raiding prowess. Thakur turned out be one of the most influential players in the match with a total of 12 points.
Thakur was adjudged the top raider of the World Cup with 64 points. He has notched up four Super 10s through out the tournament. A Super 10 is when a player scores 10 or more points in a match.
South Korea's Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) star Jang Kun Lee was adjudged the most valuable player of the World Cup.
Iran enjoyed a stronger start and dominated the first half. But the Indians showed superb fighting spirit and aggression to pull off the win.
Thakur had started the revival early in the second session by claiming four consecutive raid points. His team-mates also showed excellent raiding and defending technique to edge out their opponents.
The near capacity crowd kept up a deafening wall of noise even before the match started and egged on the Indian players throughout the game.
"This is the best moment of my life," Thakur said after the win as his teammates broke out into an energetic bout of bhangra all around the court.
"Kabaddi is India's sport and we have managed to continue our domination. We will dance in the hotel all night."
The Indians had faced a tough challenge from the Iranians in the Asian Games final a couple of years ago as well.
Indian captain Anup Kumar asserted his teammates had learned their lessons from that contest and were confident of victory despite trailing throughout the opening half.
"Iran had played very well in the Asian Games final as well. We had defeated them in the final stages of that match. We had learned our lesson from that game and we knew what we had to do today," Anup said.
Surjeet took India's first point of the match with his team's second raid.
But with four PKL stars in their ranks, the Iranians soon showed that they have improved a lot as they started to dominate proceedings.
Iran fought back to take a 3-2 lead before Thakur restored parity with a superb raid, staving off an attempted tackle by wrestling his opponent over the line.
The visitors outwitted Pardeep Narwal during his raid to regain the lead but the Indian defence thwarted the next Iranian raid to level the scores.
A botched attempt by the Indian defenders saw both Pardeep and Manjeet Chillar sitting out, which handed Iran a 9-7 lead.
Anup Kumar fell during the next Indian raid as the Iranians built up a crucial three-point lead.
With India reduced to just two men, Mohit Chhillar and Surendar Nada earned two points, pulling off a super tackle.
But the Iranians continued their impressive form to inflict the first all out of the match on the hosts and take a 16-12 lead.
The teams went into the half-time break with Iran leading 18-13.
Thakur produced a superb raid early in the second half to dismiss two Iranian defenders and reduce the deficit to 16-19.
A couple of excellent raids by Thakur and a superb piece of defending saw the hosts draw level at 20-20.
Thakur scored his third successive a point in another raid before the Indians inflicted an all out on their opponents to take the lead for the first time in the contest at 24-21.
Thakur continued his exploits in raiding as the Indians gradually bolstered their lead.
They started to become a tad too rough with their tackles which earned them a mild reprimand from the referee.
Pardeep fetched a couple of points with his raid to give India a comfortable seven-point cushion.
The Indians soon inflicted the second all out on the Iranians to further increase their lead and virtually assure themselves of victory.