Raiders win you matches in kabaddi, but defenders win you titles as they form the foundations for a successful team. Defenders are especially vital to get the scoreboard moving in close Pro Kabaddi matches where the raiders look to slow down the pace of the game and play on do-or-die raids. This is where the team’s primary defender usually steps up to the task and leads the defensive unit by example.
While not a common occurrence, there have been a handful of matches where defenders have outscored raiders and starred in winning causes for their respective teams. Here are a few best defensive masterclasses by defenders on the Pro Kabaddi stage.
Iranian powerhouse Mohammadreza Chiyaneh has shown that he can change the course of a game single-handedly with his robust tackles. Patna Pirates’ Chiyaneh produced a defensive masterclass in Season 9 against Dabang Delhi K.C. in a close encounter. He kept things quiet in defence and didn’t allow raiders to get away with any points. Such was his authority on the night that he completed eight tackles with all of them being Super Tackles. He even made it difficult for Dabang Delhi K.C. talisman Naveen Kumar to score against him and kept the Pirates in the hunt for most of the game. Even though the Pirates eventually lost the contest, the match will always be remembered for Chiyaneh's herculean effort. He scored 16 tackle points in the game and was the second best defender of the season with 84 tackle points.
Manjeet Chhillar held the record for most tackle points in a Pro Kabaddi game for three seasons. Chhillar achieved the feat while with Puneri Paltan in Match 55 of Season 4 against Bengaluru Bulls when he scored 11 tackle points. With Puneri Paltan struggling at 12-21 after the end of the first half, it was Chhillar who helped them make a fantastic comeback in a must-win game to qualify for the semis. It was Chhillar’s exceptional defensive work that helped him to bag a High 5 in the 25th minute to level the score at 24-24 halfway through the second half. Puneri Paltan went on to win the contest courtesy Manjeet Chhillar’s solid defence. The all-rounder was the best defender of Season 4 for his side with 44 tackle points.
Patna Pirates’ Neeraj Kumar equalled Manjeet Chhillar’s record of 11 tackle points in Match 92 of Season 7 against Puneri Paltan. Puneri Paltan established a good lead after making a solid start to the game, but Neeraj levelled the score for his team at 7-7 with a Super Tackle on Nitin Tomar. Before the end of the first half, the right cover secured his High 5. He continued to put pressure on the opposition raiders after the break and ended the night as the best tackler in the match. Neeraj Kumar, in fact, was the standout defender for Patna Pirates in Season 7 with 59 tackle points.
Surender Nada has been one of the most renowned left corners in Pro Kabaddi. He was at his best in Season 2 and proved to be the key for U Mumba in the second season’s semi-final when the Mumboys beat Patna Pirates 35-18. The left corner scored a crucial 10 tackle points, including a Super Tackle in the match to help U Mumba book a berth in the final before going on to win the title. Nada was the best defender for U Mumba in the first two seasons and scored 92 tackle points for them.
Telugu Titans’ Sombir took the mat by storm in Match 54 of Season 5 against Tamil Thalaivas. The Thalaivas started the match positively, but Telugu Titans recovered quickly and took the lead. Sombir stood tall in defence and completed his High 5 two minutes before halftime. He was the star of the night for the Titans and helped them get the better of the Thalaivas. The right corner produced a Super Tackle against Ajay Thakur and held his nerve to also produce a tackle in the final minutes of the match as the Titans won a thriller with a scoreline of 33-28 .