The year 2019 was memorable for the sport of kabaddi, where a lot of young talents emerged into the limelight and showcased their skills. Some raiders left an impression by blazing raid points consistently, while some defenders influenced many with their rock-solid defense.
The year kicked off with Bengaluru Bulls winning their maiden title in PKL Season 6 Final over Gujarat Fortune Giants. On the other hand, the Indian Railways kabaddi team with a star-studded line-up won the 66th Senior Nationals after six years. They continued to assert their dominance in the 3rd Pandit Deen Dayal tournament as well.
The action continued as Mashal Sports held its first-ever PKL All-Stars match before the commencement of Season 7. The World 7 side upset Indian 7 in the exhibition match and proved why Kabaddi was growing as an international sport.
Bengal Warriors and Dabang Delhi K.C. qualified in the finale for the first time in PKL history, where both teams showed why they deserved the title this year with their all-round display. Warriors defeated Dabang Delhi in a thriller courtesy of the Iranian Mohammad Nabibakhsh, who led the team to win its maiden title.
The year ended on a high note with both the Indian men's and women's kabaddi teams earned gold medals at the 13th South Asian Games. Both sides remained unbeaten in the tournament and depicted their dominance in the sport yet again.
As the year 2019 is about to conclude, let's take a look at the top-5 players based on their performances throughout the year and their vital contributions to the teams.
#5 Nitesh Kumar
The centurion of tackle points in the sixth season of Pro Kabaddi, Nitesh Kumar has proven, why he is the best right corner defender from India at present. The ankle-hold specialist Nitesh enjoyed his debut year in Season 5 from the Future Kabaddi Heroes program and ended as a force to reckon with in the defense.
Nitesh's brilliant run continued in the 66th Senior National Kabaddi Championship and 3rd Pandit Deen Dayal Kabaddi tournament when his team Services ended as the runners-up on both occasions. His ability to perform well under critical situations has turned him into one of the finest defenders of today.
He earned the captaincy hat for UP Yoddha in the seventh season of PKL. Nitesh formed a deadly combination with Sumit, finishing as the best corner duo of the season. Nitesh's performed his role as the captain to perfection as he led UP Yoddha to the playoffs with a well-balanced squad.
Nitesh picked up 75 tackle points in 23 matches with six High-5s to his name. He became the fastest player to clinch 150 tackle points in PKL history in just 46 outings this year. Nitesh showed the ability to remain composed and execute his tackling skills with precision.
A deserving candidate, Nitesh earned a call-up in the Indian Kabaddi team for South Asian Games 2019. He led the defense with Vishal Bhardwaj on multiple occasions, which helped India win the competition with ease. Nitesh's outstanding form depicted why he could be an icon in the days to come.
#4 Fazel Atrachali
Fazel Atrachali has turned out to become one of the most lethal left corner defenders in the Kabaddi world today with his waist pulls and blocks that can easily take any raider down. He has grown into a leader commanding his players well and giving opportunities to the youngsters in the side to depict their capability.
Fazel got named as the captain of the World 7 side in Pro Kabaddi's All-Star match that took place ahead of the seventh season. He led the team from the front, scoring a brilliant High-5 against the Indian 7 in the process and upsetting the Indian side with a full-time score of 32-33.
The skipper that led Iran the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games, Fazel took U Mumba into the playoffs for a second-consecutive year, in the seventh season of PKL. He finished with 82 tackle points in 24 matches with four High-5s that saw him earning the 'Best Defender of the Tournament' award in 2019.
The Iranian Fazel Atrachali finished as PKL's best-left corner for a second successive year. With 317 total tackle points, Atrachali finished as the third-best defender of the competition by the end of the seventh season.
#3 Pardeep Narwal
Pardeep Narwal took the Kabaddi world by storm this year, becoming the first raider in Pro Kabaddi history to score 1,000 raid points in the competition. Narwal, who contributed to Patna Pirates' three conscutive titles from Season 3 to Season 5, also amassed the landmark of 50 Super-10s and 50 super raids this year.
As captain, Narwal single-handedly led his state Haryana in the 66th Senior National Kabaddi Championship, where the team ended semi-finalists. The team also won the 3rd position match against Uttarakhand 43-35 in the 3rd Pandit Deen Dayal Kabaddi Championship.
Although Patna Pirates failed to qualify for the second consecutive season of PKL, Pardeep Narwal had a tremendous season yet again, ending the seventh season with the second-highest (302) raid points in 22 matches at an average of 13.73 per game. Despite getting no support in the offense, Pardeep continued his dominance in the competition on his own.
The recently-married Pardeep Narwal also helped CCS Delhi claim gold in the 43rd All India Civil Services Kabaddi Tournament. He got picked in the Indian Kabaddi team for South Asian Games 2019, where the team bagged gold medal for the 10th time in the event's history.
Having grown immensely as a matured raider, Pardeep has shown time and again why he is the best in the business when it comes to making records and taking games away single-handedly.
#2 Naveen Kumar
Naveen Kumar has etched his name in the record books at just the age of 19. A sensational prodigy to watch out for, Naveen has re-defined consistency playing in the Pro Kabaddi League or the Nationals. After making a remarkable debut for Dabang Delhi K.C. back in Season 6, Naveen continued his exploits for Services in the 66th Senior Nationals.
Naveen contributed well in leading Services to become the runners-up of 2019 Senior Nationals. His precision in executing running hand touches and escapes has allowed him to become a raiding force. Courtesy of his brilliance, Services' team also finished as the finalists of the 3rd Pandit Deen Dayal Kabaddi Championship.
The seventh season of Pro Kabaddi witnessed Naveen Kumar breaking the record of the most Super-10s (22) in a single season by any player in history. He carried Dabang Delhi's offense with 21 consecutive Super-10s, contributing to 56.58% of Dabang Delhi's raid points. Naveen's extraordinary performances earned him the 'Most Valuable Player of the Tournament' award, where he scored 301 raid points in 23 matches for the side.
Naveen became the youngest debutant in the Indian Kabaddi team this year for South Asian Games 2019. A Super-10 in the summit clash for Naveen saw the pre-favorites clinch their 10th gold medal in the competition with ease.
2019 has been a breakout season for the 'Dabang Express' Naveen Kumar, as he continued to show why the future of Indian Kabaddi is in safe hands ahead.
#1 Pawan Sehrawat
The 'Hi-Flyer' Pawan Sehrawat had a tremendous start to 2019 when he scored a mammoth 22 raid points against Gujarat Fortune Giants in the Final of Season 6. Bengaluru Bulls won its maiden title courtesy of Pawan's 271 raid points in the 2018-19 season of PKL.
Pawan achieved success with the Indian Railways as well, leading the offense of the side in the 66th Senior National Kabaddi Championship. His eight raid points versus Services in the final helped the Indian Railways clinch the title after six long years. Pawan's raiding brilliance saw Indian Railways also the 3rd Pandit Deen Dayal Kabaddi Championship.
Named in the Indian side for the Indian 7 vs World 7 match, Pawan scored a Super-10 in the PKL All-Star Exhibition match as well. He showed a glimpse of what could get expected from the Hi-Flyer, and delivered in the next season as well. With 18 Super-10s to his name, Pawan bagged the 'Best Raider of the Tournament' by scoring 346 raid points at an average of 14.41 raid points. Pawan also claimed the record of the most raid points in a match by any player in history - 39 raid points versus Haryana Steelers.
Following his success in the PKL and the Nationals, Pawan got announced as the vice-captain of the Indian Kabaddi team. He led the team's offense on multiple occasions and played a significant role in leading India to its 10th gold medal in the South Asian Games.