Before the likes of Pardeep Narwal, Naveen Kumar, Pawan Sehrawat, Vikash Kandola and many more came under the limelight of Pro Kabaddi League, there were many players from PKL season 1 that are now almost forgotten. If the first 4 seasons of this top tier Kabaddi league hadn’t been a success then i wouldn’t have been writing this feature over here.
Just like we talk about Pele and Maradona in Football or Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar in cricket, there are some heroes and legends that graced the game of Kabaddi. In this article we will give a special mention to those Kabaddi players who laid the foundation for Pro Kabaddi League to reach impeccable heights.
1. Anup Kumar – One of the hottest properties of Pro Kabaddi League and season 1’s Best raider Anup Kumar had to be on top of this list. He was one of the trendsetters, inspiration and example for a lot of current as well as upcoming Raiders. He played in 6 seasons from 2014-2018 for U Mumba (5 seasons) and Jaipur Pink Panthers (1 season). Anup Kumar comes from Haryana which is very well known for providing young kabaddi talents. He has won a number of Silverwares for both Country and club. In 2006, 2010 and 2016 South Asian games, Anup was a member of the Indian team that won Gold medals on all three occasions. During the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games too India won the Gold Medal in Kabaddi and Anup was a part of that team as well. In 2016, he tasted World cup glory with India by beating Iran in the Final. In his Pro Kabaddi League career, Anup Kumar played in 3 finals but won only one PKL title in Season 2. Currently serving as the DCP of Haryana, Anup was the Most Valuable player of season 1 with 155 raid points to his name. Overall, he has played 91 PKL games and brought back 527 raid points with 17 Super raids and 13 Super 10s alongside a raid success rate of 31%. He played his final season wearing the colors of Jaipur and announced his retirement on 19 December 2018 after spending 15 years on the mat.
2. Ajay Thakur – Hailing from the beautiful North-Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Ajay Thakur is one of the very first legends of the sport. He had a successful Kabaddi career where he won several major trophies for India but he was never able to win the Pro Kabaddi League title. He played 8 seasons for teams like Bengaluru Bulls (Season 1&2), Puneri Paltan (season 3&4), Tamil Thalaivas (season 5,6 & 7) and Dabang Delhi K.C (season 8). His native state Himachal has also given players like Surinder Singh and Vishal Bhardwaj who are currently active members of U Mumba and Telegu Titans respectively. For India, Ajay has won a total of 7 medals with 6 Golds and 1 Bronze. His first gold medal with India came in 2007 during the Asian Indoor games followed by another gold medal during Asian Indoor and Martial art games in 2013. The Asian games in 2014 saw him win his 3rd Gold medal and two years later Ajay Thakur won the Kabaddi World cup with India and also finished the tournament as the best raider with 64 raid points. He added another gold medal to his tally after winning the Asian Kabaddi Championship in 2017. The Asian Games and Dubai Kabaddi Masters in 2018 saw him a Bronze medal and gold medal respectively. He has also been felicitated with the Padma Shri award and Arjun award in 2019. Coming back to his numbers in PKL historyt, Ajay Thakur ranks 7th among the top 10 raiders in the history of the tournament with 794 points. By the time he retired, he made 1700 raids with 23 Super raids and 29 Super 10s by maintaining a raid success rate of 38%. He was given the nickname of “Iceman” due to his cool temperament. His frog jump and ability to touch defenders while in air was one of the best attributes about his game.
3. Rohit Kumar – Another elite raider in this list is former Patna Pirates, Bengaluru Bulls, Telegu Titans and Gujarat Giants player Rohit Kumar. The well-built raider was actually serving the Indian navy when he got the chance of playing PKL and he made his debut in season 3 with Patna Pirates and finished the season as the third best raider with 102 raid points. He also won the PKL title in his debut season and bagged home the MVP of the season award before moving to Bengaluru Bulls next year. He remained without a trophy for the first 2 seasons (4&5) with Bulls and scored 93 & 213 raid points respectively. He finished as the second best raider in season 6 below former team mate Pardeep Narwal. In season 6, Rohit Kumar scored 162 raid points and won his second PKL title. His performances in Pro Kabaddi were nodded by the Indian selectors and he earned a spot for his nation during 2016 and 2019 South Asian Games and won Gold medals on both occasions. While playing for Bengaluru he once brought home 32 raid points against UP Yoddhas and became the first player to score 30 raid points. He also was a part of the team that won the 2018 Dubai Kabaddi Masters and won the Bronze during the Asian Games held in 2018. In his overall PKL career, Rohit played 101 matches, went for 1473 raids, winning 683 raid points, including 16 Super raids and 26 Super 10s. On an average he brought back 6.76 raid points per match.
4. Manjeet Chillar – Pro Kabaddi League is incomplete without mentioning All-rounder Manjeet Chillar. He represented teams like Bengaluru Bulls, Puneri Paltan, Tamil Thalaivas and Dabang Delhi K.C. Chillar was the best defender of season 1 while playing for the Bulls he gathered 51 tackle points in 12 outings. His all-round performance saw him collect 71 raid points as well in season 1. He picked up the inaugural defender of the season award in 2014 for his defensive performance. He helped Bulls reach the Final in season 2 but lost against U Mumba, however, he was adjudged as the MVP of that season. Manjeet’s contribution towards the offense as well as the defense is why he is one of the most versatile All-rounders ever. Manjeet is also internationally acclaimed as he won Gold medals for India during 2010/2014 Asian games alongside 2016 Kabaddi World cup and 2018 Dubai Kabaddi Masters.
5. Ravinder Pahal – Veteran right corner defender from Sonepat, Haryana, is Ravinder Pahal. With Dabang Delhi, where he began his career, Ravinder won the season two award for best defender. He remained there for another season before being acquired by the Puneri Paltan in Season 4, when he once more impressed. He played for the Bengaluru Bulls during Season 5 and had an average season overall. Ravinder wasn’t purchased in the first round of the Season 6 auctions, but the Dabangs later chose him for the base amount. He has also performed below average this season. Due to a vicious ankle hold, Ravinder is also known as The Hawk. In 124 PKL appearances, Pahal initiated 726 tackles and acquired 339 tackle points including 19 Super tackles and 23 High 5s. Ravinder maintained a tackle success rate of 44% and on an average picked up 2.73 tackles per match.