The Pro Kabaddi League has witnessed some of the most lethal raids in recent history, the quality going up with each passing season. It’s a tall order for any defender to stand up to some of the most daunting raiders in the league. But debutant Ankush was up for the challenge in Season 9. He went on to win the Best Defender of the Season Award and helped the Jaipur Pink Panthers clinch the PKL 2022 title.

The 22-year-old set a benchmark for all the young superstars in the league and showed a glimpse of what the future holds. Ankush’s journey towards his breakthrough season, too, is that of a prodigy. “Growing up, I looked up to players like Rajesh Narwal, Rohit Chillar and others. Even my elder brother Amit was part of the initial Pro Kabaddi League seasons and I would dream of becoming a professional one day,” said Ankush, recalling his early days.

“I was a mere 6-7-year-old when I took up the sport. For young kids, I think, PKL is a great league that inspires them to take up the sport professionally and a platform for young players like me to improve our skill,” added Ankush, who hails from Lakhan Majra – a village in Rohtak district.

Even though he didn’t make his debut at the time, the youthful defender rose through the ranks at Jaipur Pink Panthers in Season 7 and learned his trade in training playing amongst the senior most members of the team. “I was quite happy to have the opportunity to train with the best in the league. Our head coach Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan always had encouraging words for me and pushed me to give my best on the mat. Even the other senior players in the team including skipper Sunil Kumar eased the pressure and motivated me to play to my strengths,” said Ankush.

After spending a season without any games at Bengaluru Bulls, Ankush was once again picked up by the Pink Panthers as a New Young Player last year. He went on to deliver one of the most inspiring performances by a youngster, racking up 89 tackle points. “We trained together as a team before the start of the season. Coach Sanjeev prepared us for the challenge and there was no pressure on us, which helped us perform well,” Ankush said.

He also discussed his signature ankle-hold defensive move, which was a talking point in Season 9.

“As a defender, I try to hold my ground position and focus on locking either the raider’s ankle or thigh. It’s a skill that I train regularly to improve on," Ankush added.

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