That opening loss to South Korea in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup looks like a distant dream now. After recovering from a surprising defeat like a champion team should, India lifted their performance levels up a few more notches in a brilliant performance against high-flying Thailand in the semifinals.
Now, a familiar foe in Iran await the blue-clad men in the final, a final that promises to be just as gripping and nail-biting as that first match, which led to worries that India might not even book their date for this marquee encounter. Live streaming options of the match here | LIVE UPDATES HERE.
On Friday, against a Thailand side which had won four of their five matches in the group stages and had edged Iran to top place in Group B, India were irresistible. The raiding was near-flawless, the defending not as daft as the one against the Koreans.
And when India play a complete game like that, no team in this Kabaddi World Cup can stay with them. Pardeep Narwal, Ajay Thakur and Surender Nada were superlative in the semifinal, with the former taking at least a point from every single one of the 10 raids he took up.
That consistency will be key if India are to top Iran, who were impressive in their own right in their win over South Korea. After jumping into the lead early, Iran had enough experience and guile to make sure South Korea would not be allowed a way back into the contest.
Iran will know all the odds will be against them for this final – they will be up against a team that have just dominated Thailand in the semis and a side which will have the entire crowd cheering for them – but the Middle East team will also know that this is an India side with chinks in their armour. Those chinks might have been covered up pretty well since that Korea defeat, but they are still there and if Iran find a way to bring them out, there could be an upset.
India will know that they need to stay alert through the entire match while also being aware that if they play with the all-round verve of the semifinal, they will be the ones standing up on the podium, dancing around and celebrating with a trophy in their hands.
Kabaddi World Cup 2016 final schedule: India vs Iran.
Date: Saturday, October 22.
Time: 7.45pm IST (5.45pm Iran time, 3.15pm BST, 10.15am ET).
Venue: The Arena, TransStadia, Ahmedabad.
TV listings: India: Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD2, Star Sports HD3.
USA: Fox Sports.