The rise of Pro Kabaddi has witnessed some great players coming into the foray and unleashing their talents at will. With the intent and raw untapped energy heavily concentrated among the young players, many have found their way into the starting seven of their teams, replacing the old guards who were once in the limelight.

These veterans now find their jobs at risk owing to the energy and strength that the upcoming and young players bring to the mat these days. The techniques of the game are being implemented at a quicker pace with the new generation bringing in new tactics to outclass the defenders, something left wanting from the original superstars of the game.

Players like Pawan Kumar Sehrawat and Naveen Kumar have stormed the record sheet with breathtaking numbers while veteran raiders such as Ajay Thakur and Rahul Chaudhari have struggled to find form. Once a shining star for Tamil Thalaivas, Thakur has managed to earn just 58 points in 13 matches so far which is completely astonishing given his meteoric performance in the previous two seasons.

The ‘Poster Boy’ Rahul Chaudhari has also faced a similar fate having faltered in the seventh season, building a podium of questions about his fitness on the mat. In his first 17 matches, Chaudhari has garnered just 108 raid points, his lowest score in the past four seasons.

The old warhorse, Surender Nada has also been on the receiving end owing to his inability to maintain fitness. Nada was ruled out before the season began in 2019 due to a hand injury he suffered last season. The Patna Pirates’ defender enjoyed a remarkable fifth season with the Haryana Steelers earning a total of 80 tackle points but was soon beaten by the pace of young raiders, who figured out a way to get out of his signature ‘ankle hold’ move. 

The crown jewel of a defender is his ability to block a raider through his innate strength and Manjeet Chhillar just seems to be an expert in that area. After posting a mammoth total of 106 points in the third season, Manjeet has failed to replicate a similar performance so far. His average tackle per match has gone down from 3.73 in the third season to a mere 2.33 in the ongoing seventh season. Despite all his raw strength, Manjeet has failed to create an impact and the game as it is now played at an express pace is becoming a hindrance for the defensive maestro.

You also have the eldest player in the league, the 44-year-old Dharmaraj Cheralathan, who showcases quality on both the left and right corner. Having played the sport for almost three decades, Dharmaraj has been moderately consistent in his outings. He has the discipline and an uncompromising attitude towards maintaining fitness which has made him a valuable player for his team. But at times, you witness the long-serving defender switch his methods and his performance takes a beating. In all these cases, one requires elasticity and swiftness to progress further which makes it difficult for most players to adapt.

However, the younger players are displaying variation in their performance and technique. They can attack from the right and left as well, their footwork is much better and their consistently high work rate on the mat gives favourable results for their respective teams.

“If there’s a new kid on the mat, I watch him keenly and learn his game to see the new techniques that he’s brought into the sport," says Manjeet Chhillar. The established authorities are aware of the need of the hour but to make a transition so quickly might be a task left unaccomplished.

Feature image courtesy: Star Sports & PKL