The league has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years.
The Pro Kabaddi League has played host to some of the most exceptional raiders in the sport. During its inaugural season, there were genuine concerns regarding how much of a far-reaching impact could such a championship have on the Indian viewers.
However, the fast-paced, thrilling nature of the games has attracted the attention of the audience brilliantly. One of the major reasons behind the same has been the sparkling prowess of several raiders.
All of them boast of a different style and approach and they have hoisted the standard of the competition incredibly. Here, we take a look at five of the best raiders from the lot:
5. Ajay Thakur
Ajay Thakur has been one of the most consistent raiders in the Pro Kabaddi League ever since its inception.
The 33-year-old has represented Bengaluru Bulls, Puneri Paltan and Tamil Thalaivas over the course of the seven seasons. He has garnered a massive 790 points from 115 encounters, which averages to 6.86 points per match.
Thakur has a tall frame and is capable of launching attacks from either side of the mat. He is agile, alert and definitely someone who is experienced and composed enough to elevate his performances when the magnitude of the situation rises. This is evident through his fantastic efforts in the decisive matches of the Indian national team’s victorious run in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup.
The sixth edition of the tournament was the most efficient one for the veteran raider where he bagged 203 points from merely 22 games. He continues to be one of India’s topmost players and a vital figure in the league too.
4. Deepak Niwas Hooda
Deepak Niwas Hooda is one of those players who have been part of the competition since a very young age. The 25-year-old has participated in 123 matches so far.
That is the highest number of appearances amongst the top 10 raiders (statistically) to have played in the league over the course of its seven seasons. Hooda has earned an impressive 856 points, which translates to gaining 6.95 raid points in one match on an average.
He represented Telugu Titans and Puneri Paltans for a couple of seasons each before plying his trade to Jaipur Pink Panthers.
In the seventh season of the tournament, Deepak Hooda gained 146 points from 20 matches and was the ninth most successful raider in the PKL-7 in terms of points earned.
3. Anup Kumar
Fondly referred to as kabaddi’s ‘Captain Cool,’ Anup Kumar has been India’s pioneer in this sport for the past decade or so. He started off his PKL journey with U Mumba and continued to represent them for five seasons before shifting to Jaipur Pink Panthers in the sixth season.
He has earned 527 points from 91 matches, which comes down to almost 5.79 points in one game (on an average). Though it might appear relatively lesser to the uninitiated, Anup’s role on the mat was much more strategic and dynamic than that of others.
He was renowned for his calmness and the ability to identify and pounce upon any given errors committed by the opposition. Most significantly, his approach and ability to bag instrumental points in do-or-die raids were lauded by the masses. Anup had a pragmatic outlook towards the game.
His fleet-footedness was noticeable through his excellent toe-touches, a trait that not many could boast to have mastered so finely.
The veteran raider led U Mumba to the finals consecutively in the first three seasons of the tournament. He won the title with them in 2015 and was the captain in India’s World Cup win in 2016 too.
2. Rahul Chaudhari
Rahul Chaudhari has been one of the most consistently performing individuals in the history of the Pro Kabaddi League.
The 26-year-old made a mark in the first edition itself, scoring a fantastic 151 raid points. Ever since, he has been consistent with his flamboyant raiding style and the forceful approach that he adopts to notch points on a regular basis.
He is more of an all-round raider, having the ability to decimate his opponents through every trick and technique that could be carried out on the mat. Rahul is quick and observant, and his robust frame makes him a difficult raider to catch hold of the defenders.
The Tamil Thalaivas star has secured 955 raid points from 122 games, which boils down to an impressive 7.83 points in each encounter. He has earned 166 do-or-die raid points, which is the joint highest along with Deepak Niwas Hooda. The fourth season of the tournament was particularly successful for him, as Rahul Chaudhari acquired 146 points through his raids in merely 16 matches.
He was also adjudged as the best raider of the season that time around.
1. Pardeep Narwal
Pardeep Narwal has been the best raider to have played in the PKL, and the most remarkable facet of this feat is that he has been part of the competition for only six seasons.
He made his debut in the second edition, when he turned up for Bengaluru Bulls. Even then, he only featured six times for them. However, ever since switching sides to Patna Pirates ahead of the third campaign, it has been an incomparable journey for them.
Pardeep led his franchise to three consecutive Pro Kabaddi League titles from the third to the fifth season respectively. He became the first player to obtain a massive 1000 raid points when he achieved this accomplishment in the previous season.
Overall, Pardeep has procured 1160 raid points from merely 107 matches. On an average, he attains an arguably extraordinary 10.84 raid points in each match that he plays; a statistic that is extremely difficult to amass.
He has also registered 59 Super 10s and 53 Super Raids to his name, which is the highest in both categories.
Moreover, Pardeep has also made 880 successful raids, which is 92 times higher than the second-best Rahul Chaudhari. Just to fathom how astounding is this coup, it is necessary to note that Narwal has played 15 matches lesser than Rahul too.
From every angle that one could analyse this, Pardeep Narwal stands apart as the best raider to have graced the Pro Kabaddi League.