These players displayed enormous stability for their respective teams at the back.

The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 6 witnessed the rise of a new group of defenders, who left an indelible mark in the tournament. These defenders helped build a strong unit and contributed massively towards their team’s success throughout the season.

Bengaluru Bulls claimed their maiden title, after beating Gujarat Fortune Giants 38-33 in the PKL 2018-19 final. This was the Gujarat-based franchise’s second consecutive loss in a final. Some new names along with a few consistent performers topped the defensive charts in the Pro Kabaddi League 2018-19 season.

We take a look at the top five defenders of PKL Season 6:

5. Sandeep Kumar Dhull (Jaipur Pink Panthers)

Sandeep Kumar Dhull was one of the outstanding performers in PKL 6

He first appeared in Season 3 donning the colours of Dabang Delhi. His six Super Tackles were the most by any player that season. Dhull continued to make steady progress in Season 4, this time for the Telugu Titans. However, having not been retained again, he missed the following season.

Dhull made his comeback in Season 6 after being snapped up by the Jaipur Pink Panthers. This time he showed his worth by becoming the second-highest scoring left-corner defender in the league. He enjoyed a stellar campaign and was a standout performer in the Jaipur Pink Panthers’ squad.

His brute strength and textbook tackling enable him to perform the signature diving-thigh hold move. Dhull surprises the raider by diving at his thighs from a distance and grabs them to bring him to the ground. Due to this, Sandeep Kumar Dhull has become a potent weapon in Super Tackle situations. Overall, he picked up 67 tackle points in 22 matches.

4. Sunil Kumar (Gujarat Fortune Giants)

Sunil Kumar first came into the limelight during the University Nationals when he helped his team win Gold. He then went to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility in Gandhinagar to get professional training, after being spotted by SAI coach Jaivir Sharma. He made his debut for the side and went on to win the Junior Nationals twice between 2015 to 2017.

His performances in the junior level tournaments grabbed the attention of Patna Pirates and he was picked up by the team for PKL Season 4. Unfortunately, he played only one match during that campaign. The following season saw Gujarat Fortune Giants purchase Sunil at the PKL Season 5 auction. He recorded the third-highest tackle points among right-cover defenders that season.

Sunil’s performances prompted Gujarat Fortune Giants to appoint him as their club captain for the following season. He led from the front in PKL Season 6, finishing as the league’s most successful right-cover defender. Sunil’s 81 assists were the second-most among all defenders. The skipper was inspirational throughout the campaign, guiding his side to the summit clash. Overall, Sunil Kumar registered 76 tackle points in 25 matches.

3. Fazel Atrachali (U Mumba)

Iranian defender Fazel Atrcahali has won the Pro Kabaddi League title twice

The Iranian superstar is a nightmare for any raider. Fazel Atrachali has established himself as one of the greatest overseas players in the history of the league. He has won two league titles, first with U Mumba in Season 2 and then with Patna Pirates in Season 4. Atrachali joined the new franchise Gujarat Fortune Giants the following season, but returned to U Mumba next year.

One of only two defenders to win multiple Best Defender awards, the 29-year-old is the first foreign defender to score 300 tackle points in the league. He is a player who displays a perfect balance between speed and patience, knowing exactly when to act and when to hold back.

In PKL Season 6, the Iranian picked up 83 tackle points in 23 matches. He was instrumental in helping U Mumba to the knockout stages, where they lost to UP Yoddha.

2. Parvesh Bhainswal (Gujarat Fortune Giants)

The cousin of Sunil Kumar, Parvesh Bhainswal formed a deadly combination with Sunil in the Gujarat Fortune Giants’ backline. The left-cover defender had made his debut in Season 4 for the Jaipur Pink Panthers outfit. However, his playing time was limited. This prompted him to make the switch to Gujarat Fortune Giants.

Bhainswal found immediate success with his new team. He had the second-most tackle points among Indian players for his team. His tally of four Super Tackles was the highest among his teammates. Furthermore, among players aged 20 or below, Bhainswal had the fourth-most tackle points in the entire league.

Parvesh Bhainswal continued his fine run in Season 6. He popularized the chain tackle move, which he successfully performed with Sunil Kumar on several occasions. The duo’s childhood chemistry was evident with their telepathic understanding on the mat. A splendid season for Parvesh Bhainswal concluded with him recording 86 tackle points in 25 matches.  

1. Nitesh Kumar (UP Yoddha)

Nitesh KUmar
Nitesh Kumar is one of the rising stars in Indian kabaddi

Born in Adampur Dadhi, a small village in the Bhiwani district of Haryana, Nitesh Kumar rewrote the history books in PKL Season 6. Playing in just his second season, the youngster was adjudged as the best defender in the league. The UP Yoddha defender became the first-ever to score a century of tackle points in a single PKL campaign.

Nitesh has mastered the ankle hold move, in which he grabs onto the raider’s ankle with tremendous grip and strength, often when he’s darting towards the mid-line. This forces the raider to go back and creates an opportunity for a tackle. A product of the Future Kabaddi Heroes program, Nitesh Kumar’s rise has been meteoric.

Owing to his tremendous performances in Season 6, Nitesh Kumar picked up 100 tackle points in just 25 matches. He helped his team UP Yoddha to within touching distance of reaching the final.

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