The Season 8 Pro Kabaddi auction saw Rahul Chaudhari snapped up by Puneri Paltan for INR 40 lakh, less than half the price of his previous auction amount of INR 94 lakh and some would argue that it’s a valuation way too small for a player of his caliber.
Rahul, of course, was one of the breakout stars from the first couple of editions of PKL, finishing second on the leaderboard for raid points (151) in the inaugural season before following it up with another second spot finish on the raid charts with 98 raid points in Season 2.
Bursting onto the scene
His attacking prowess quickly earned the reputation of being a Raid Machine and saw him become the poster boy of Pro Kabaddi in its early years. His consistent stellar performances for Telugu Titans saw him be a thorn in the side of opposition defences and finish among the top five raiders in the first three editions of the league.
Season 4 would prove to be one of his best in terms of performances as he topped the raiding charts, finishing with 146 raid points en-route to being awarded the Best Raider of the Season despite falling short again from the team point of view.
Even though he finished just outside the top 5 on the raiding leaderboard for Season 5, Rahul Chaudhari still managed to notch 184 raid points - his most in a single edition of Pro Kabaddi.
His individual heroics was enough to convince Telugu Titans that Rahul was still a top raider and they showed their faith in him by splurging a whopping INR 1.29 crore to secure his services in the Season 6 auction.
Fall from grace and devaluation of net worth
However, little did the Titans know then that it would be Season 6, which would mark the start of the downward spiral in form and performances for Rahul. He finished that season with 159 raid points at an average of 7.57 per game.
Now while that return may have been enough for other players, it didn’t really cut it for Rahul in the eyes of Telugu Titans, partly due to their heavy investment in him at the auction.
So it wasn’t really much of a surprise that he signed for Tamil Thalaivas the following season as the Titans looked to get him off their books. As mentioned earlier, the Thalaivas spent INR 94 lakh to secure his services in the hope of him being the perfect foil for captain Ajay Thakur, who needed someone to shoulder the team’s attacking responsibility.
Rahul though failed to live up to expectations once again, finishing with just 130 raid points at an average of 5.9 per game - his lowest ever for a season. He struggled to lead from the front as Ajay Thakur found himself on the bench and not playing much due to a variety of reasons.
Season 8 a shot at redemption?
Looking at his downward trajectory over the last couple of seasons, it’s easy to understand why Rahul Chaudhari’s net has dropped so dramatically over the last few years. The once revered Raid Machine was bought for INR 40 lakh by Puneri Paltan and reduced to the role of a support act in auctions he used to headline in the past.
This drastic change in the public’s perception of him is bound to hurt him. However, perhaps this can act as an eye-opener for Rahul as he looks to arrest his fading career and worth.
He by no means is too old for competition at just 28 years and will hope to reignite the fire in his belly that thrust him into the limelight in the first place. Sport has more than its fair share of reclamation arcs and it wouldn’t really beggar belief if Season 8 is remembered as Rahul’s road to redemption.
Featured photo: Pro Kabaddi League