The 34-year-old is one of the top all-rounders in the Pro Kabaddi League.

Manjeet Chhillar is the only player in the Pro Kabaddi League to have scored more than 200 raid points and 200 tackle points, cementing his name as one of the greats of the game.

However, over the past few seasons, his focus has steadily shifted to defending. In the last three Pro Kabaddi League campaigns, the veteran all-rounder has scored a total of just 17 raid points in 49 appearances. In the fourth season, he scored 24 raid points alone in only 12 matches, indicating a clear change in approach.

Manjeet Chhillar has realised that his presence on the mat and ability to bolster the defence is much more valuable to the team than the points he might score as a raider. Given his role as a senior, he now prefers to serve as a mentor to raiders than carry out raids himself.

“My aim now is to stay on the mat, as I can play defence in every position. If our raiders are scoring well then there is no need for me to raid. There are certain times when only defenders are left on the mat for our team and we are in need of revivals, only at such times do I go out and raid,” said Manjeet Chhillar during a live chat show, Beyond The Mat.

His role in the team has changed with time. While he may no longer score as prolifically in raids any more, he certainly has the ability to take any unsuspecting opponent by surprise. He is currently the most successful defender in Pro Kabaddi, scoring 339 tackle points in 108 matches. Ravinder Pahal is next with 326 tackle points in 112 appearances.

Manjeet Chhillar said, “This is the era of specialisation – most raiders you see won’t be very good at defence and vice versa. If I have this ability then it is just an additional asset for me and my team.”

His love towards defending also stems from the fact that he started as a defender in his formative years and only learned to raid along the way through intensive practice sessions. Chhillar recalled, “A match today lasts for 40 minutes but back in my hometown, we have ground practice for around 2-2.5 hours. When we practised on the ground in my early days, I used to defend as well as raid. All those hours I put in initially are helping me right now.”

“For our ground practice sessions, a single-player ends up raiding a minimum of 70 times before the session is over. In a regular match, I raid around three-four times, and that too if the team is in need. Thus, I’m always prepared to go on the offensive,” he concluded.