As Season 5 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi enters its final week with all 132 league matches completed, it’s safe to say that it has already served up its fair share of memorable moments. See-saw contests, thrilling ties and high-scoring encounters have all blended together to create what’s been the most action-packed season yet. But with the league phase now complete, we will be bidding adieu to plenty of stars, who’ve lit up the stadia and our living rooms frequently over the past three months. Here we have a look at the top 5 players, who won’t be seen in the playoffs and will be missed for their individual brilliance that was on display despite poor campaigns from their respective teams.
The lone warrior in an often low-in-confidence Bengaluru Bulls outfit, Rohit Kumar can be proud of his showing this season. The Season 3 MVP consistently produced stunning displays for his team but lacked support more often than not. His flamboyant style of raiding will most likely see him finish in second spot on the leaderboard for raid points (219) by the end of the league. The 27-year-old also managed 12 Super 10s this year. However, his most memorable performance came against U.P. Yoddha when he created history by breaking the record for most points in a match. Kumar became the first raider to score 30 raid points in a match and finished with a total of 32 points.
Like Kumar, Ajay Thakur suffered from a lack of support from his teammates as he made his debut into captaincy with an inexperienced Tamil Thalaivas team. Having said that it must be noted that from a personal standpoint, it’s perhaps his best season yet. He is third on the leaderboard for raid points (213) and also ended his campaign with 12 Super 10s. Thakur’s lasting memory from this season though will be the thrilling late comebacks by Chennai spearheaded by him. Chennai completed several late comebacks over the course of the season but none more memorable than the two in the Delhi leg when he helped the southerners to wins in the buzzer raid. It was thus fitting that Chennai ended their last match of the season in a similar fashion with Thakur having his say – albeit in defence this time.
Another captain who had it all to do this season, Meraj Sheykh can hold his head high having done his fierce reputation no harm despite a below-par season from Dabang Delhi K.C. The Iranian all-rounder often found himself thrust into pressure situations. He is this season’s leading all-rounder with a total of 104 points. At one stage it looked like he could do the unthinkable by carrying his team into the playoffs on his back. However, an injury which sidelined him for a few games took away some of his potency. His best performance of the season came against Bengaluru in early September when he managed a game-high 14 points for a Delhi win.
Nitin Rawal has won over many admirers in his debut Pro Kabaddi season courtesy of his tenacity in defence and attack. The Jaipur Pink Panthers all-rounder managed a total of 85 points, making him second only to Sheykh on the all-rounders’ leaderboard. Rawal picked up several Super 10s over the course of the season and amassed 65 raids points. He also has 20 tackle points to his name having managed one High 5. Rawal can be happy with his own showing despite Jaipur failing to set the stage ablaze this year in what was a campaign marred with injuries to key and experienced personnel at crucial junctures.
Vishal Bhardwaj turned out to be one of the finds of the season after dominant showings in Telugu Titans’ cumbersome campaign. He made a splash in their first match itself with a High 5 and went on to cement his spot as one of the league’s best defenders despite his team’s collective shortcomings on the mat. Bhardwaj demonstrated maturity beyond his years this season and was often the coolest head in a relatively experienced defence. He trails only Haryana Steelers captain Surender Nada and Bengal Warriors skipper Surjeet Singh on the leaderboard for tackle points (71). His healthy appetite for a fight meant that he pulled off three super tackles and completed five High 5s this year.