Ajay Thakur may have stolen the show in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup final with a timely Super 10, but it was a moment of brilliance from Nitin Tomar during a crucial Do-or-Die raid that shot him to prominence and changed his life forever.
Up against a powerhouse team like Iran, Nitin Tomar started on the sidelines along with some other supremely talented raiders like Rahul Chaudhari, Deepak Hooda and Jasvir Singh in the Indian national kabaddi team.
"The match was an absolute thriller,” recalled Nitin Tomar during vivo Pro Kabaddi’s live Instagram chat show Beyond The Mat. “And since the team was filled with veteran kabaddi players I didn’t know if I would get an opportunity to go in."
Nitin Tomar’s chance in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup final came in the 17th minute, though, when the Iranian team had taken a three-point lead and were looking to take complete control of the match by inflicting an All Out.
A 21-year-old Nitin Tomar was tasked with the responsibility of keeping the team afloat and that’s when he first gave the world a glimpse of the tremendous talent he possessed.
“Our coach was initially unsure due to my lack of international experience,” he recalled. “But he conferred with Anup Kumar, who was the then team captain and they decided to take the risk of bringing me onto the mat even though other seasoned campaigners were up for the task.
“It was solely his trust in me at that moment which has seen my career take off since.”
Nitin Tomar also stressed how Anup Kumar encouraged him to trust his instincts, play his natural game and pay no heed to the unnecessary pressure of it being his first international tournament. Knowing his captain had his back did wonders for the Puneri Paltan raider’s confidence.
“Anup bhai’s instructions were clear - I absolutely had to fetch the team a point. I had that at the back of my mind while raiding and I brought back two points which really calmed the nerves in the entire camp,” Nitin Tomar beamed.
Confident in the raider’s abilities after that stellar raid, the coach put him in for a second time in the 34th minute when he once again scored two crucial points in a Do-or-Die raid.
The move to bring him on the mat was a game-changer as Nitin Tomar became the second-highest scorer (6 points) for the Indian national kabaddi team in the final, second only to the legendary Ajay Thakur.
“I felt elated and extremely proud of myself. I was able to justify my coach’s call of putting me in ahead of the others. These are the moments that you dream about as a youngster and I am glad I got this wonderful opportunity to make my country proud when it mattered the most," Nitin Tomar remarked.