The former Indian captain spoke on PKL’s live chat show, Beyond the Mat.

Ajay Thakur has earned the moniker of ‘Iceman’ for his calm presence on the mat and his ability to maintain a level head while raiding.

He has unmatched skills and an arsenal of raiding moves like the Running Hand Touch, Kick and his signature move – the Frog Jump – at his disposal. Youngsters always look up to him for some raiding tips and according to Thakur, it is down to one vital factor which cannot be replaced in a kabaddi player’s life – fitness.

While going into the details of what exactly makes a good raider, Ajay Thakur stressed that it is more important for aspiring young raiders to focus on a fit body than spending time perfecting multiple techniques.

“Fitness is the most important factor for any young raider. A fit player can surpass skilful ones. He can push through a chain of defenders with just his brute strength, while a raider focussing only on skill might get caught under such circumstances,” said Ajay Thakur.

He went on to give examples from the Pro Kabaddi league to illustrate that while raiders’ styles may vary, technique alone can never make up for a lack of fitness.

The raider said, “Sandeep Narwal’s raiding, for example, is based more on his strength than multiple skills. Siddharth Desai is another example of a fit player who has outperformed more skilled ones.”

“Shabeer Bappu, on the other hand, is one of the most skilful players I’ve seen and Naveen Kumar relies heavily on his skills too,” he pointed out. “Everyone has their own talent but a basic level of fitness is not just an advantage, it is a necessity.”

Ajay Thakur feels that while skills can be developed with experience, getting injured multiple times early in a playing career – because fitness may have been neglected – can ground a youngster before he even has the chance to take off. Hence, for a player to gain an edge in the early years, it is important to focus on building a strong physical base.

“If you have speed and power early in your career, then you can raid any way you want and still get some success. That is a huge leg up for a young raider,” he concluded.