A calm yet feisty face on the mat, Ajay Thakur has found his way from the muddy fields of his village to stardom, going on to receive the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2019. The 33-year-old’s journey has been nothing short of mesmerizing, with him taking on the reins of leading the Indian national Kabaddi team on the international stage.
His stellar debut season in the inaugural edition of Pro Kabaddi with Bengaluru Bulls set him on course to scale greater heights. In the 15 matches he played that season, Thakur racked up a total of 127 points. After spending the next three seasons, with Bengaluru and then Puneri Paltan, he joined Tamil Thalaivas in 2017, in what was going to be his best season to date. It’s here that he delivered a career-best tally of 222 total points with a whooping 12 Super 10s to add to that.
This spurt in his overall presence on the mat came only after an inspiring World Cup campaign in 2016. Leading the raiding department from the front through the tournament, it’s in the final against Iran that Thakur showed his class. In a crisis situation, Thakur entered the opponent’s mat and came through with a four-point raid to propel India to World Cup glory.
However, despite tasting such success over the last three years, the veteran leader has been under stress off late. Captaining his side Tamil Thalaivas in the ongoing season, Thakur’s below-par performances have overshadowed his phenomenal record of the past two years. Averaging 9.68 and 9.22 raid points per match in the fifth and sixth season, respectively, Thakur’s record has fallen substantially in the current edition.
In his first 13 matches of season seven, the Indian Kabaddi captain has averaged a mere 4.46 raid points per match which clearly paints a worrisome picture for the Arjuna Awardee. Known for his ability to lift the team from a situation of crisis, Thakur has failed considerably in replicating that this time for the Thalaivas.
Although he has always been adored by his teammates who appreciate his innate leadership qualities, the prolific raider’s captaincy has also been questioned in recent times. This is largely due to Thalaivas’ poor campaigns in the two consecutive seasons earlier, where they found themselves in the bottom of their zone after the group stage.
The plight is still the same as the Thalaivas have been bulldozed further and are languishing yet again at the bottom of the table. The Thalaivas have looked far from an inspired unit under him and due to insufficient support from Rahul Chaudhari, Thakur’s resolve has fallen flat on its face. He has been benched frequently in the ongoing season as his cool demeanour seems to have lost its charm, especially in crucial encounters.
The veteran raider also doesn’t have the advantage of age on his side and really need to up is game to feature among the greatest yet again. Otherwise, the cliff is not far away if he continues to steamroll down the hill.
Feature image courtesy: Star Sports & PKL