A World Cup champion, an Asian Kabaddi Championship winner, and an Asian Games gold medallist, the list of achievements for star raider Ajay Thakur is endless.
Never one to throw in the towel even in the direst of situations, Ajay Thakur has starred in some of the most thrilling moments in Pro Kabaddi history over the years.
A clutch player if there ever were one, Iceman as he’s fondly known, has time and again grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat during buzzer raids and delivered on the mat when his team was under the pump and needed it the most.
Fourth on the leaderboard for most raid points (790), Ajay Thakur has performed to potential throughout his Pro Kabaddi career even though his last campaign might have been slightly underwhelming compared to his lofty standards.
Ajay Thakur’s missing jewel
Needless to say, his below-par showing in the last Pro Kabaddi campaign will only serve as motivation for the 2019 Arjuna Awardee and Padma Shri recipient to put his best foot forward in the upcoming season.
After all, Pro Kabaddi happens to be the one trophy that’s always eluded Thakur despite the star raider enjoying solid performances and campaigns from an individual point of view.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way though. Ajay Thakur was expected to have won his first Pro Kabaddi title by now and especially after Rahul Chaudhari joined him at the Tamil Thalaivas last season along with another veteran in Manjeet Chhillar.
While the southern franchise looked devastating on paper, they couldn’t quite live up to expectations on the mat. Rahul Chaudhari struggled to shoulder the burden as lead raider along with Thakur, who himself had a below-par campaign having almost single-handedly carried the Thalaivas on his back for successive campaigns.
Falling out of love with kabaddi
However, Season 8 could be Ajay Thakur’s year and a fresh start with a new franchise is sure to recharge his batteries. Pro Kabaddi’s long hiatus, in fact, can act as a blessing in disguise for Thakur, who self-admittedly had lost some of the joy of playing kabaddi.
“Sach batau toh meri woh kabaddi khelne wali khushi gayab hai. [To be honest, I have lost the joy of playing kabaddi],” Thakur had said in 2018 after India’s Asian Games disappointment.
His comments were reflected in his Season 7 performances as he finished the campaign with just 58 raid points and cut a dejected figure – a far cry from the all-conquering raider who singlehandedly used to get his team over the line.
Season 8 promises to be very different, however, as a revitalized and hungry Thakur will be chomping at the bit to return to action and do what he does best after spending two years without any PKL.
Why Season 8 could be the Iceman’s year
Furthermore, what makes the upcoming edition of Pro Kabaddi one his best chance at title glory is the fact that he’ll have the perfect foil raiding beside him in tandem after Dabang Delhi K.C. secured his services for INR 46 lakh at the auctions.
At Dabang Delhi K.C., Thakur is expected to don the role of support raider with Naveen Kumar fulfilling the lead role. There was a similar dynamic in Thakur’s last season with Tamil Thalaivas where Chaudhari was supposed to take on the mantle of lead but ended up underwhelming instead.
Unlike Chaudhari, young Naveen Kumar is still bursting onto the scene and developing into one of the raiding superstars in the league. After notching 172 raid points in his debut season, Naveen accumulated 301 raid points in the next edition as Dabang Delhi K.C. fell agonizingly short of the title in the Season 7 final.
At this stage of his career, Naveen’s youthful exuberance and energy will be the perfect foil for Thakur. The veteran raider too will complement Naveen by being a calm and experienced head for the youngster to learn from.
Together the raiding duo can exorcise Dabang Delhi K.C.’s demons from their Season 7 final defeat and end the long-overdue quest for Thakur to finally get his hands on the elusive Pro Kabaddi trophy, making the Iceman joining the franchise from the national capital a match made in heaven.
Featured photo: Pro Kabaddi