If there is one sport where India have had undoubted dominance, it is Kabaddi. Even though the Indian kabaddi team has ruled the sport for years now, they still are not put on the same level as the national cricket team.
There have been three editions of the Kabaddi World Cup since 2004 and the Indian team have triumphed in them all. They have also clinched the gold medal in all the three South Asian Games – in 2006, 2010 and 2016. Sadly, after winning the gold medals in all the Asian Games since 1990, the Indian kabaddi squad failed to replicate the same dominance in the latest edition of 2018 in Indonesia: while Iran claimed the first spot, Team India had to settle for the bronze medal.
Nevertheless, the success of the nation’s kabaddi team is remarkable and the kabaddi players are finally given proper recognition.
The Pro-Kabaddi League and the World Kabaddi League have brought the sport to the households in India and the people have begun to follow the games as enthusiastically as cricket matches.
And if you want to bet live on Kabbadi, check our main page.
Here is 10CRIC’s list of the Top 5 kabaddi players of India:
Born in Rindhana – a small village of Haryana’s Sonipat district, Pardeep started playing kabaddi at a very young age. He would soon become a sensation on the mat. He turned pro in 2015 and now is a crucial part of the Indian Kabaddi Team. Since 2016, Pardeep has featured regularly in the national side having won gold in three of the four tournaments that he has played in. In no time he has become one of the most recognised Indian kabaddi players ever.
Pardeep has blossomed in the Pro-Kabaddi League. He debuted in the second season of the league when he was signed by Bengaluru Bulls. However, he announced his arrival in style the following season, when he became the highest point-scorer, debuting with Patna Pirates. From there on he has broken records time and again.
Pardeep Narwal is the only player to be pronounced VIVO Pro-Kabaddi’s Most Valuable Player in two consecutive seasons – fourth and fifth. In the fifth edition of the league, the ‘Dubki King’ secured an amazing 359 raid points and was 150 points clear of the second most successful raider that season. He currently holds the record for securing most points in a single season, the highest points in a single game and the most points in a single raid in Pro-Kabaddi League.
So far in the league, Pardeep has scored over 1,000 points including tackle and raid and is the first raider to do so in the league’s history.
Just like most of the other Indian players, Ajay also hails from a small village. A 10-year-old Ajay, inspired by his cousin Rakesh, who had already played for the Indian national Kabaddi team, ran away from his house to play in a kabaddi tournament. Fondly called the ‘Ice Man’, Ajay is one of the best raiders to have ever represented India at an international level. While he represented his employer – Air India, at the Industrial National Championships, he was also given the captain’s armband in 2017, and during his stint as the captain, Ajay led India to the gold medal at the Asian Kabaddi Championships in Gorgan, Iran.
As far as his playing style is concerned, he is more of an attacking player. During crisis times, Ajay is the one who usually pulls the team out of trouble during a match. Since he is one of the tallest players in the kabaddi circuit, he has one of the longest reaches.
Ajay is known for his fighting spirit as he believes to not remain calm and not give up till the end of a match: that’s how he earned the nickname of ‘Ice Man.’ He has consistently been among the leading raiders of Pro-Kabaddi since the beginning. He started his league career with Bengaluru Bulls before he switched to Puneri Paltan and then his current team, Tamil Thalaivas.
Ajay has played in all the Pro-Kabaddi seasons until now and has been involved in several nail-biting victories. He was also India’s hero in the 2016 World Cup triumph and a part of the Indian team that clinched the gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Another player who is famous for his calm and cool attitude – Anup Kumar – is one of the favourites among the Indian kabaddi fans. The Haryana-born first started playing kabaddi as a leisure activity during his school days. Interestingly, his kabaddi skills were noticed much later by the coach of the CRPF kabaddi team in 2005, where Anup was working as a constable at the time. A year later he represented India for the first time at the 2006 South Asian Games in Sri Lanka, where India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan in the gold-medal match.
Anup is considered one of the smartest brains in the sport and is known to be a sharp strategist in the game. In 2012 he received the Arjuna Award as a recognition for his massive contribution to Indian kabaddi.
In 2014 he was named the captain of U Mumba in the inaugural season of Pro-Kabaddi league and was crowned the Most Valuable Player in the first season of the league. With 596 points from six seasons so far, Anup Kumar is one of the most successful raiders of Pro-Kabaddi.
Rakesh, who comes from a village of North West Delhi, took up kabaddi during his school days. After performing well for his school team, he was roped in by the Delhi Team to represent them at a national level. Rakesh finally made his India debut in 2003. He is famous for being skilled in both defence and offence. Since he has proved to be quite reliable on several instances in the past, he is now often asked to shoulder responsibility in crunch situations.
He played a vital role to help India win the gold medal in three editions of Asian Games – 2006 in Doha, 2010 in Guangzhou and 2014 in Incheon. He was also a part of the winning Indian team that lifted the Kabaddi World Cup trophies in 2004 in Mumbai and 2007 in Panvel. For his immense contribution to Indian kabaddi, he was conferred the Arjuna Award in 2011. He remains among the handful of kabaddi players to have won the prestigious award given by the Indian government.
In the first auction of Pro-Kabaddi League, Rakesh was the most expensive player. After five out of eight franchises bided for him, he was eventually snapped by Patna Pirates for 12.8 lakh INR. He then switched to Patna Pirates, where he was named the captain. He led them to their first fourth-spot finish in 2014 before he was signed by U Mumba in 2016. The following season, Rakesh represented Tamil Thalivas. At present, the Indian player is the coach of Haryana Steelers.
Manjeet hails from Nizampur, the same village of Rakesh, now known as ‘the cradle of Indian kabaddi’. Manjeet, who initially kick-started his career as a wrestler, suffered a nose injury that forced him to stop wrestling. That’s when he came back to his village and chose to take up kabaddi professionally.
The 33-year-old is an all-rounder and plays for Tamil Thaliavs in the Pro-Kabaddi League. He started his Pro-Kabaddi League career with Bengaluru Bulls. He captained the side in the first season where he won them a total of 51 tackle points – the highest by any defender and that saw him win the Star Sports Defender of the Tournament. He also picked up 71 raid points and helped the Bulls reach the semi-finals.
The second season got even better for him and Bulls where he finished as runners up. He was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the season for his 40 tackle and 67 raid points. He then moved to Puneri Paltan ahead of the third season before moving to Jaipur Pink Panthers, where he stayed for only one season. He moved to his current club, Thalivas ahead of the sixth season.
Be it in Pro-Kabaddi League or for the Indian team, Manjeet has never failed to impress with his all-round skills and that characteristic has earned him a nickname of ‘One-Man Army’. He has been a part of the gold-winning Indian team at the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup and the two-time winners at the Asian Games (2010 and 2014).
Check out which kabaddi games are currently in play here.