Defense in kabaddi requires tremendous focus, timing, strength, co-ordination and cat-like reflexes. Apart from anticipating a raider’s moves, defenders need to dig deep into their arsenal to react to the myriad form of attacks. Over and above that, they need to be cognizant of their teammates’ presence on the mat as well so that they can work together in executing their moves and bring a raider down. In short, it’s an art that not many kabaddi artists can master.
Over the previous five editions, we have seen some tremendously skilled defenders in VIVO Pro Kabaddi. Season 6 will once again see some familiar faces trying to outfox the raiders and score valuable tackle points for their teams.
We take a look at five players who might be vying for the top spot at the end of the season.
1. Surender Nada – Haryana Steelers
Winner of the Best Defender award in Season 5 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi, Haryana Steelers’ Surender Nada will be one of the favourites to bag the award again. The Left Corner is one of the premier defenders in the game and has been a fixture in the Indian team for the better part of a decade as well. His strong grip and immense upper body strength allow him to execute of the deadliest Ankle Holds in the game, which ensures that his team doesn’t give away any easy Bonus points to the opposition.
Nada is second on the all-time tackle points list, that speaks volumes of not just his vast experience but also the results that he has brought on the mat, and while the Steelers fell short in Season 5, Nada proved his worth to the team throughout the campaign.
2. Surjeet Singh – Bengal Warriors
Right Cover Surjeet Singh was a leader in defence for the Bengal Warriors in Season 5 and finished second in the list for most tackle points. The defender dominated opposition after opposition, managing 9 high 5s (a league high) through the season. He specialises in the Dash, given his ability to swiftly rush across the mat and generate enough force to carry the raider all the way out of the mat. His sense of timing is so finely tuned that all it takes is the hint of a mistake from a raider, for Singh to get into action and move the raider out of bounds.
Surjeet’s climb in becoming one of the game’s most coveted covers has been noteworthy and he could cap off his progress by claiming the Best Defender Award in Season 6.
3. Vishal Bhardwaj – Telugu Titans
At the age of 20, Vishal Bhardwaj took the kabaddi world by storm with his defence ability, making him one of the game’s hottest prospects. The all-rounder finished third in the tackle points list behind only the much more experienced Surender Nada and Surjeet Singh in Season 5. Bhardwaj is another player who isn’t afraid to take on attacking raiders and his gamble pays off more often than not owing to the speed at which he can execute a deadly Ankle or Thigh Hold on an unsuspecting raider.
With just one full season under his belt, Bhardwaj will only get better with experience and could end up becoming the youngest player to win the Best Defender Award.
4. Fazel Atrachali – U Mumba
Iranian kabaddi hero Fazel Atrachali is the most successful overseas defender to ever play in VIVO Pro Kabaddi. The Left Corner leads all foreign defenders in tackle points and won the Best Defender award in Patna Pirates’ title-winning campaign in Season 4. Atrachali is a tough defender who is not afraid to use brute strength by squarely Blocking an escaping raider’s path or getting a firm hold on his legs to take him down. Once tackled by this goliath, raiders always fear erring in judgement against his side.
He reached the final with the Gujarat Fortunegiants in Season 5 but fell short against his former side, Patna Pirates. Now back at U Mumba, where he won the VIVO Pro Kabaddi title in Season 2, Fazel will look to become only the second man to win the Best Defender award twice.
5. Manjeet Chhillar – Tamil Thalaivas
One of the most decorated players in the game and nick-named the 'One Man Army', Chhillar is a two-time winner of the Best Defender award and he also claimed the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in Season 2. He is the all-time leader in tackle points as well as average tackle points in VIVO Pro Kabaddi history. A master at the Block, Chhillar is blessed with impeccable timing and control and uses strength to his advantage, which means that once he gets a hold on a raider it’s almost ensured that the raider will have to make his way to the sidelines.
After a year of playing in separate teams, Manjeet Chhillar will be reunited with his best friend Ajay Thakur in the Tamil Thalaivas camp and this reunion might be the spark that lights Chhillar’s flame and helps him reclaim his crown as the Best Defender in Season 6 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi.