One of the biggest surprises on Day 2 of the Pro Kabaddi 2021 auction was when two-time Asian Games gold medallist Manjeet Chhillar went unsold. The three-time National Championship winner was eventually picked by Dabang Delhi K.C. for his base price of INR 20 lakh in the re-auction of unsold players’ segment.
However, it was a tad surprising to see the lack of interest for one of India’s finest kabaddi players. Lest we forget, Manjeet Chhillar with 339 points holds the record for most tackle points in the history of Pro Kabaddi and was once revered for his all-round skills leading to him fondly being called the One Man Army.
The One Man Army
After all, Manjeet did have a promising start to his PKL career with Bengaluru Bulls. He won the Defender of the Tournament award in the inaugural edition and then put on a brilliant show in Season 2 to lead Bengaluru Bulls to the final. His performances that season won him the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award despite coming up short in the final.
In Season 3, Manjeet Chhillar was bought by Puneri Paltan in the auction and finished the campaign with 106 points to top the list for defenders with the most points for the second time in three seasons.
The Arjuna awardee's meteoric rise fetched him a whopping INR 75.50 lakh contract with Jaipur Pink Panthers in Season 5 but it was with the inaugural champions that Manjeet’s fitness struggles started to surface. His prolonged injury struggles hampered Manjeet’s raiding prowess and invariably had a bearing on his performance as a defender too.
A fast-fading star
Since Season 5, Manjeet’s stock has plummeted drastically. After just one injury-marred season with Jaipur, Manjeet moved to Tamil Thalaivas but his fitness concerns and underwhelming performances continued with the southern franchise. Before too long, it became clear that Manjeet was no longer the all-conquering all-rounder from the first few PKL seasons.
Much to the contrary, he resembled something similar to a spent force with his best years on the mat well and truly behind him. His below-par performances have been reflected in the two auctions thereafter as Manjeet attracted bids worth less than one-third of his Season 5 price.
He managed 67 points from 19 games in Season 6 for Tamil Thalaivas and followed it up with 41 points across 15 matches in the next campaign for the southerners. With that in mind, it’s not much of a surprise that the 2016 World Cup winner was not among the priority buys for any of the teams in the auction.
One last dance
Eventually, Dabang Delhi K.C. took a gamble on him by buying him for his base price with the hope of one last hurrah from one of PKL’s first-ever superstars. However, make no mistake, the upcoming Pro Kabaddi season will probably be the last chance for Manjeet Chhillar to prove his mettle and the doubters wrong.
With most teams looking to blood youngsters in Season 8, it will be a challenge for Manjeet Chhillar to keep up with talents who are almost half his age and lack the wear and tear that comes with experience.
But going by the fighter that he’s been throughout his career, it’s safe to say that he won’t go out with a whimper as he looks to prove himself in what’s most likely his last dance on the mat before joining his contemporaries and fellow PKL legends like Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar in a different role like them on the bench.
Featured Photo: Manjeet Chhillar / Twitter