The 35-year-old has delivered top performances on the international stage and the PKL.
Ajay Thakur was already in this prime before the advent of the Pro Kabaddi League. Now at the age of 35, he might be past his prime years. However, he has stamped his name in the league’s history. The respect off the Kabaddi mat and the fear on it that Thakur has garnered during his playing career will remain unchallenged.
Pre Pro Kabbadi League Success
Thakur entered the PKL fray in 2014, having already established himself in the national scene. He made his Kabaddi debut for Air India and was also part of a very successful Indian team that won Gold Medals in 2007 Asian Indoor Games and at 2013 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
Ajay Thakur was one of the big attractions of the inaugural Pro Kabaddi League auction and was bought by Bengaluru Bulls for a whopping INR 12.20 lakh after intense bidding. With him and the dependable all-rounder Manjeet Chhillar in the squad, the Bengaluru-based franchise was the team to beat.
Season 1 with Bengaluru Bulls
Thakur and the Bulls started strongly in 2014, with the star raider scoring 13 and 19 points in the first two games to set the tone. Bengaluru’s strong performances continued throughout the round-robin phase. Two close victories in the final stages of the phase against the Telugu Titans and the Jaipur Pink Panthers helped the Bulls to qualify for the playoffs.
They rode on strong all-around performances by Thakur, who scored 10 points and 13 points respectively in both matches.
However, the playoffs proved to be a disappointing affair. Despite a strong 15-point outing from Thakur, the Bulls succumbed to Anup Kumar-led U Mumba. They eventually finished fourth after an unfortunate defeat against Patna Pirates in the third-place playoff. However, Thakur was prolific throughout the season and finished with 127 points, the fourth-best in the league.
Season 2 with Bengaluru Bulls
Despite a fourth-place finish, the Bulls were confident of their squad. Both Manjeet Chhillar and Ajay Thakur helped them repeat their strong performances in the second season. Bengaluru Bulls started the campaign with a resounding eight-point victory over Bengal Warriors, where Thakur managed to become the top scorer with 11 points. He put up impressive performances throughout the season as Bengaluru finished third in the table and qualified for the playoffs yet again.
Facing Rahul Chaudhari and his Telugu Titans, Thakur put up a memorable eight-point performance, helping the Bulls eke out a one-point victory over the Hyderabad-based side. However, in the final against U Mumba, he turned out to be a no-show. He only managed three points from 15 raids – leading to a comfortable win for U Mumba.
It was a crushing blow for the Indian star. Despite the rough ending, Thakur had another commendable season in the Pro Kabaddi League. He finished third in the league for most raid points, with 79 points from 13 matches. The final defeat would be the final match he played for Bengaluru Bulls.
Move to Puneri Paltan
Puneri Paltan had failed to make the playoffs in the first two seasons, finishing last on both occasions. However, the arrival of Ajay Thakur changed the fortunes for the team. Thakur, alongside his former Bengaluru Bulls teammate Manjeet Chhillar and a young Deepak Niwas Hooda, led the Pune franchise to the third spot and their first-ever playoff appearance.
However, in the semi-final, they fell to Pardeep Narwal’s Patna Pirates 40-21. Later, a memorable nine-point performance by Deepak Hooda and a four-point outing from Thakur helped the Puneri Paltnan to a third-place finish. As a result, Ajay Thakur ended with 52 raid points for the season.
Season 4 with Puneri Paltan
By the time Season 4 approached, it was evident that Thakur was past his prime. His performance had dipped considerably in the season before, but Paltan utilised him in a support role behind Deepak Niwas Hooda. He continued in that role and helped his team achieve successive playoff appearances, registering 63 raid points during the course of the season.
However, Pune failed to advance to the final yet again. They fell to Pardeep Narwal and the Patna Pirates for the second year in a row. Thakur returned with a blank despite making nine raids. Once again, Punrei Paltan had to settle for a third-place finish beating the Telugu Titans 35-40. Thakur scored three points with a 60% success rate in the third-place playoff match.
Tamil Thalaivas era
The 35-year-old moved to Tamil Thalaivas for the fifth season. His experience and maturity meant he was named captain of the franchise. The inaugural season for the Chennai-based outfit proved to be very tough. The Thalaivas finished bottom of the Zone B table, failing to qualify for the playoffs in that campaign. The star raider scored 222 points in 22 games, which included 12 Super-10 outings. He finished third in all the major raiding categories.
Season 6 proved to be a repeat of Season 5. The Thalaivas finished bottom of the Zone B table yet again, despite 203 raid points from their captain. His performances included a memorable 17-point outing in a 40-40 tie against the Haryana Steelers.
The arrival of Rahul Chaudhari in season 7 reduced the scoring load on Thakur, who featured in only 13 matches during the season. He still managed a respectable 58 raid points but the Thalaivas finished the season 12th despite the new additions.
National Stage Bling
Ajay Thakur is a highly decorated veteran in national Kabaddi. Recipient of both the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Awards, Thakur was an instrumental player in the Kabbadi World Cup Gold-winning team of 2016, helping the side overturn a five-point deficit into a nine-point lead. He also won the Gold Medal at the 2014 Asian Games and bronze in the 2018 Asian Games.
At 35, Thakur is nearing the latter stages of his gloried career. Despite the lack of a Pro Kabaddi League title, the Iceman has motivated several youngsters to take up Kabbadi with his stellar performance and has established a reputation amongst his peers.
Thakur is considered a hero to several current stars and his signature Frog Jump has become a staple move in the arsenal of several raiders. As Indian Kabbadi scales new heights, it is impossible to forget the lasting contributions from him.