New Delhi, 2 October: Seven-time winners of Indian men's kabaddi will open their campaign against Bangladesh to regain the Gold, which they lost in Jakarta in 2018, at the 19th edition of the Asian Games in Hangzhou China on 3rd October.
Two-time winner Indian women's team will take on Chinese Taipei on 02 October in their opener.
Speaking about the team's prospects at the Asian Games, coach Ram Mehar Singh said, “The men’s team is a very strong side. It’s the best team that could’ve been selected, and I am confident that we will win the Gold medal.”
Two-time Gold Medallist Ram Mehar, also the current coach of the Pro Kabaddi League Team - Gujarat Giants, opined “Kabaddi has received a big boost through the Pro Kabaddi League. Earlier, when I was India captain, Kabaddi wasn’t such a popular sport, and now we are second only to cricket. Through PKL, kabaddi has grown not just in India, but all over the world."
At the Guali Cultural & Sports Centre, Xiaoshan District, India will be among 9 teams (Group A - India, Bangladesh, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Japan; Group B - Iran, South Korea, Pakistan, Malaysia) battling it out for top honours, while the women’s team will be one of 7 participating teams (Group A - India, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, South Korea; Group B - Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal) in the kabaddi competition.
Kabaddi made its debut at the Asian Games during the 1990 edition in Beijing, China and the sport has been a part of each edition since then. While the Indian men’s team has bagged 7 Gold medals and came back with Bronze in 2018, the women’s team, who made their first appearance on the mat at the Asian Games in 2010, have won 2 Gold medals and finished with Silver in Jakarta (2018).
Looking ahead to the women’s competition, Mamtha Poojari, a two-time Asian Games Gold medallist, believes that India has the pedigree to stand on top of the podium. “Iran has been a dominant force in Kabaddi in recent years, but I am hopeful and confident that both the Indian teams will do better than the previous edition, and come back with the Gold,” she said.
Poojari, an Arjuna Awardee, also noted that the Asian Games is a massive platform for the players, “This is a great platform for the players to make their mark with a big performance. A great result will provide impetus to the athletes' careers."
She further added, “What also happens is when a player does well and wins a medal at this big a stage, there is an added responsibility for them in the future, and that results in further improvements for the athlete as well. There's no bigger stage than the Asian Games for our athletes.”
Men’s team; Nitesh Kumar, Parvesh Bhainswal, Sachin, Surjeet Singh, Vishal Bhardwaj, Arjun Deshwal, Aslam Inamdar, Naveen Kumar, Pawan Sehrawat, Sunil Kumar, Nitin Rawal, Akash Shinde.
Women’s team: Akshima, Jyoti, Pooja, Pooja, Priyanka, Pushpa, Sakshi Kumari, Ritu Negi, Nidhi Sharma, Sushma Sharma, Snehal Pradeep Shinde, Sonali Vishnu Shingat.