As the dust settles from what was an exhilarating Season 7 of vivo Pro Kabaddi; the latest edition of kabaddi’s grandest stage gave us plenty to talk about. Dubbed as a raider’s game by many, Season 7 saw a peculiar theme – especially at the start of the campaign – where defences were dominating raiders. While numerous defenders made their mark in the season gone by, here we have a look at the five of the best from Season 7.
‘Sultan’ Fazel Atrachali had another consistent campaign in keeping with what we have come to expect from him over the years. He finished as the league’s leading tackle points scorer (82) and had an impressive tackle strike rate of more than 60 per cent. He also registered four High 5s and executed five Super Tackles, but one attribute of his game that is unquantifiable was his leadership ability on the mat, which was second to none in the league.
One of the biggest revelations of the season, Sumit turned out to be the perfect foil for skipper Nitesh Kumar on the opposite corner of the mat. Despite playing a game less than Nitesh, the youngster scored two more tackles points (77) than his captain in his debut season and notched up seven High 5 displays along the way. The manner in which he took to the mat like duck to water also prompted Nitesh to even single him out for praise in one press conference, where he opined that his combination with Sumit was the reason why opposition raiders found it difficult to raid from either corner against U.P. Yoddha.
The only player to ever score 100 tackle points in a season, U.P. Yoddha captain Nitesh Kumar led from the front again and finished with 75 tackle points in Season 7. He was one of the few defenders to get the better of ‘Hi-Flyer’ Pawan Sehrawat on a consistent basis and produced six High 5 displays over the course of the campaign. His eight Super Tackles and 61.47% tackle strike rate is up there with the best in the league.
The only player on this list not to make it to the playoffs, Sandeep Dhull will feel a bit unfortunate not to go beyond the league stage despite enjoying a good season on the personal front. His 73 tackle points were the most by a defender after the completion of the league phase and it’s his best return in a single season as well. His seven Super Tackles and five High 5s were also the most he has ever managed in a single season.
Baldev Singh took a giant step up from his debut season performance last year to emerge as Bengal Warriors' lead defender in Season 7. The Right Corner, along with Rinku Narwal, became a formidable force during the campaign that eventually led the team to the title. He bagged five Super Tackles and six High 5s, led the team's successful tackles tally, and averaged 2.75 tackles per match, just 0.03 behind teammate Narwal. Crucially, it was his partnership with Rinku Narwal that elevated his rise, as the duo averaged 5.5 tackle points per match between them alone.