The Rise of Kabaddi's Solitary Thalaiva: Ajay Thakur
When Anup Kumar lifted the prestigious World Cup trophy on 22nd October 2016, we witnessed an immense transition between two eras of Indian Kabaddi; the calm composure of Anup Kumar to the persistent aggression of Ajay Thakur. One took the game up to the 40th-minute mark where the major aim was to play do or die raids only and the other demoralizing the opponents from the very first raid.
With 68 raid points in his tally at KWC 2016, Ajay Thakur took the role of lead raider on his shoulders then onwards. It was the second half of the final showdown when Ajay Thakur got Meraj Sheykh and Fazel Atrachali with his fierce escapes; proving to be a nightmare for the Iranian defense as he scored 12 raid points at the night of the big final.
No matter whichever team he plays whether it be for Himachal Pradesh in the Nationals or Tamil Thalaivas in Pro Kabaddi League, Ajay is now arguably a raider who loves to attack from the get-go. Having played for Bengaluru Bulls and Puneri Paltan in the past, he always tries to save his team in hectic situations with his longest reaches to the midline with a height of 1.85m. He has 122 do or die raid points, the most by any player in PKL history with his arsenal moves like escapes, hand touches and 'frog jumps'.
"If you take Kabaddi away from me, I'm zero." said the guy who's a Deputy Superintendent of Himachal Pradesh and the leader of Indian Team. What we've learned is Ajay loves pressure. The number of empty raids is is much low now and young raiders are seen flourishing their raiding techniques under their aggressive captain which was seen in Tamil Thalaivas; the underdogs of PKL 5 where they had beaten teams like Patna, Gujarat, and Bengal. It was all because Ajay nourished his young raiders to outclass their opponents and played on his own when the lead was on the opponents' side.
We saw the same approach at the recently concluded Kabaddi Masters 2018 where Rishank Devadiga, Monu Goyat, and Rohit Kumar were given a belief to attack every single raid. It worked for the team beautifully which had seen champion players like Manjeet Chhillar and Pardeep Narwal warming up the benches. India was termed favorites to win the tournament and it could be seen turning true for Ajay & Co. It wasn't a game of making strategies and preparing blueprints before the matches took place. Ajay's impeccable show of confidence on his raiders and defenders is what saw him lifting the trophy for India.
A four time gold medalist in International level, Ajay is now the face of Indian Kabaddi and we, the fans are absolutely delighted. From a thin sidelined do or die raider to the "Thala", this combination of innocence and hostility will surely be a treat to watch as the game of Kabaddi blooms in the years to come.