India's Dominance in Kabaddi - A complete history
India has been a powerhouse when it comes to several sports and certainly, Kabaddi tops their list. Be it mud or mat, India's dominance in the sport is unmatchable. Kabaddi, which used to be an exercise several decades ago, became a sport in the upcoming years. India's part in growing the sport has been massive. They also have managed to win trophies regularly over the years.
Though the sport was around for a very long time, It became a non-exhibition sport only in the early 1990s and was featured in the Asian Games in 1990. India's dominance in the sport began in the same tournament. The team went on to defeat Bangladesh in the gold medal match to win their first-ever gold in the Asian Games.
While India lost the final in the 1993 edition, they bounced back to lift the gold in the 1994 Asian Games. The 1998 edition of the Asia Games was one of the best early victories for the country because they defeated Pakistan for the Gold medal. This was considered a sweet revenge for their loss against the arch-rival in the 1993 edition. India continued their win in the Asia Games in 2002 as well. They defeated Bangladesh once again in the final.
Kabaddi has seen exponential growth since the 1990s. In 2004, the first-ever Kabaddi World Cup was organized. India hosted the 1st ever World Cup. Initially, 14 teams were supposed to compete in the World Cup but Pakistan and Afghanistan withdrew at the last moment. India had an easy run in the World Cup. They defeated Iran in the final to lift the trophy. India proved too good for Iran as they ended 56-28.
It was the beginning of India's dominance in the International arena. While India continued to achieve bigger milestones in the sport, Iran and Pakistan slowly became powerhouse too. They continued to challenge India in almost all the tournaments. In the 2006 Asian Games, India faced Pakistan in the final once again to win by 35-23.
Three years after the first edition, The second edition of the Kabaddi World Cup was organized in India once again. Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan withdrew from the World Cup at the last moment. 14 teams participated. Just like the 2004 final, India met Iran once again and won the gold medal by defeating them 29-19.
Meanwhile, India introduced Pro Kabaddi League in 2014. The league brought a necessary revolution in the game. With years, PKL became one of the best leagues all around the world, not only in terms of viewership but also in terms of building talent in the country. Many players made it to the Indian team because of their performance in the Pro Kabaddi League.
Kabaddi World Cup came back after nine-year hiatus in 2016. While the World Cup did not happen for years, it did not change the outcome as India won the gold medal once again by beating Iran in the final for the third year in a row.
India's domination in the Asian Games also continued as they won the 2010 and 2014 championships with ease. The 2017 Asian Kabaddi Championships witnessed India defeat Pakistan in the final. India's first-ever loss in the Asian Games came against South Korea in the 2018 Asian Games. The games also witnessed India lose before the final for the first time. They lost to Iran in the 2018 Asian Games in the semi-final.
In 2019, the Indian team led by Deepak Hooda, thrashed Sri Lanka in the 2019 South Asian Games to win the title.
In 2023, when the international schedule began, India won the gold medal in the Asian Kabaddi Championship by defeating Iran in the final by 42–32.
2023 will witness several important Kabaddi tournaments, including the World Cup. India will be eager to defend their title in the upcoming world cup as well.