The rise and growth of the sport of kabaddi over the past five years, since the inception of VIVO Pro Kabaddi, has been nothing short of spectacular. A sport which has continued to rope in audiences from the beginning is now one of the most watched and loved sports leagues in India.

After a record shattering fifth season, the league was all set to give fans even more excitement as it kicked off the countdown to Season 6 with the player auction. The buzz was that the sport would witness the first player to make it to past the 1 crore mark, but as with every kabaddi event, the auction gave much more. Six players eventually went past the milestone, announcing the arrival of kabaddi among the big guns of Indian sports once and for all. Here are the players who attracted the big bucks thanks to their exploits on the mat.

Fazel Atrachali

A Herculean defender, whose experience has moulded him into a perfect mix of brute strength and shrewd tact, Atrachali is an ardent student of the game. He evolves with every season and is now among the top defenders in the world.

After Gujarat Fortunegiants let him go at the end of Season 5, a cutthroat competition to sign the Iranian star was expected. Consequently, he became the highest paid overseas player for this year’s VIVO Pro Kabaddi and the first player to make a place for himself in the coveted one crore club.

Following an intense bidding battle, the Iranian lion went to his former franchise U Mumba and will now guard their corners this season.

Deepak Niwas Hooda

Puneri Paltan’s man-in-charge last season, Deepak Hooda had an exceptional time with the franchise and managed to take them to the Playoffs on the back of a number of impressive individual performances. A focussed leader and able raider, Hooda impressed with the way he marshalled his resources and got the best out of everyone in the team.

He is known to wear his heart on his sleeve and his determination and commitment to the team’s cause are unquestionable.

Hooda was the first Indian to reach the one crore club after a three-way bidding battle between Dabang Delhi K.C., Haryana Steelers and Jaipur Pink Panthers. The Panthers eventually picked him up for 1.15 crore and can now boast of having the crafty warhorse among their ranks.

Nitin Tomar

U.P. Yoddha’s former captain and the previous season’s most expensive player, Nitin Tomar is one of the most complete all-rounders in the business right now. After almost going past the 1 crore mark last season, he managed to break through the barrier this time and went one up by bagging an extra 15 lakh after passing the mark.

Tomar took U.P. Yoddha into the playoffs in their debut season and showed that he has the ability to lead from the front. He is a complete team player who isn’t afraid to take on any role he is given, as was clear from his performance in the Asian Kabaddi Championships held in 2017, where he backed up the defence to lend balance to the team.

The star from U.P. attracted a lot of interest in the bidding but it eventually boiled down to Puneri Paltan, Dabang Delhi K.C. and Telugu Titans. The Paltan eventually picked him up in the absence of last season’s star Hooda and will now look to the raider to get them over the line.

Rishank Devadiga

A player who was the first to breach the most raid points record in Season 5, Rishank Devadiga was one of the shining stars of the U.P. Yoddha campaign and even led the side ably when they required him the most. His record was eventually overtaken but his carnage against Bengaluru Bulls will forever go down as one of the most impressive displays by a raider in a match.

Devadiga then went on to lead the Maharashtra kabaddi side to victory in the Senior Nationals, marking his place among the great leaders of kabaddi in the current era.

Rishank invited a war between Dabang Delhi K.C., Patna Pirates and the franchise from his home town, U Mumba before eventually going back to U.P. Yoddha thanks their Final Bid Match card. Fit and hungry, he will be waiting to repeat his Senior Nationals feat with the team from U.P.

Rahul Chaudhari

The Raid Machine, the poster boy of kabaddi, the man with the deadliest running hand touch and arguably the most pace on the mat when in form, Rahul Chaudhari has a number of things going for him. He has consistently led the raiders chart in VIVO Pro Kabaddi and still sits pretty on top of the list with 666 points in his 5 Seasons.

Chaudhari came into the auction off a disappointing season in the previous VIVO Pro Kabaddi edition, but everyone knew better than to discount the deadly raider based on one season. He looked the best raider of the side in an otherwise disappointing campaign and was always trying to perform better, eventually finding form in the latter half of the league.

Telugu Titans got the raider back into their fold by using the Final Bid Match card and he will now have another chance to try and lead the Hyderabad-based franchise to glory. He may be coming off a tough run, but he is sure to bounce back strong and there are few better sights on the mat than watching Chaudhari on the mat once he’s in full flow.

Monu Goyat

Monu Goyat has long been a talented raider who was extremely underrated. But in Season 5 with the Patna Pirates, Goyat proved that he deserved to be counted among the ace raiders of the sport. Even though he played second raider to Pardeep Narwal for most of the season, he managed to leave an impression and became the fourth most successful raider in the season.

Goyat’s willingness to take on the tough raids and his exceptional skills in do-or-die situations make him an ideal candidate when the going gets tough for a team. He was also one of the primary raiders for Services in the Senior Nationals, a team that boasted of stalwarts such as Manjeet Chhillar and Nitin Tomar.

Goyat was the last big name to go under the hammer on day 1 and he brought down the roof with the bidding war he started. U Mumba tried hard to get him in their side, but Haryana Steelers topped every bid they made and eventually bagged the raider for a record 1.51 crore, making him the highest paid kabaddi player in VIVO Pro Kabaddi so far.