We spanned the length and breadth of this glorious nation, have found our two finalists and we couldn’t have asked for a better line up. With the perfect blockbuster final in place, it’s only right that we highlight the men that entertained us the most over the past month with an incredible showcase of their skills and athleticism. For me, these are the 12 men (including the 5 substitutes) that not only made the difference for their sides night after night, but also made each of those positions on court their very own…These men are for me the sharpest arrows in Pro Kabaddi’s quiver in Season 3.
Left Corner – Manjeet Chillar (Puneri Paltan) – Matches 14 – Raid Points 44 – Tackle Points 56
He took the Bengaluru Bulls to the Final last season but Manjeet had a different challenge this year. In a team filled with stars at the Puneri Paltan, Manjeet not only had to step up his game again but also manage the egos (including his) and ensure the Paltan played as one cohesive unit. It took a few games but they found the right composition and from then on, Pune looked like the best defensive side in the competition. Manjeet led from the front and yet again sits at the top of the leaderboard for the best defender. He has this unique ability to play in any position based on the situation and still find the skill sets required to perform there. Normally a Cover defender, his adaptation to the Corner with the diving ankle holds was astonishing to watch and he made short work of top raiders in the league. The short block and advanced frontal blocks were staggering and literally stopped raiders in their tracks. I’d hand him the Captaincy in this Dream Team as well as it often brings out the best in Manjeet, where most would crumble with the weight of the responsibility.
Left In – Rohit Kumar (Patna Pirates) – Matches 11 – Raid Points 94 – Tackle Points 7
“Baby Anup Kumar” as I like to call him, Rohit Kumar to me has been the best raider of the tournament even if the numbers don’t suggest so. One of the most mature heads on young shoulders, he possesses every trick in the book, yet goes about unleashing them in this composed manner that makes it seem like he sees defenders approaching in slow motion. To raid and strike with equal aplomb from the left and the right side is unique and extremely impressive. His biggest strength however is the ability to draw defenders towards him rather than going to them, thereby avoiding a struggle and making it to the midline with this surety we are now used to. The running hand touches on both flanks have been lethal & his escaping skills, second to none!
Left Cover – Jeeva Kumar (U Mumba) – Matches 15 – Tackles 56 – Tackle Points 29
Perhaps the most understated member of this Dream Team and a workhorse that just goes about doing his job to perfection without often being noticed, Jeeva is to me, the most important member in U Mumba’s Champion set up. If you were ever searching for the perfect team member who didn’t care for personal glory as long as the team emerged winners, this is your man! The points may not suggest a stellar tournament but if there was a column for assists in defense or the man that cleaned up the mess of a missed tackle most often, Jeeva would head that list by some distance. As Anup Kumar says, Jeeva is the first man to arrive on a tackle no matter where on court it was initiated. Mohit Chillar & Fazel Atrachali have Jeeva’s colossal Dashes & timely Blocks to thank, as it is with this final assault that raiders are forced to make their way to the bench. The points may go to other men in the defense, but the dependence on Jeeva and his ability to respond night after night, cannot be ignored.
Centre – Rishank (U Mumba) – Matches 15 – Raid Points 105 – Tackle Points 9
The most improved player of Season 3, Rishank has been the architect of U Mumba’s charge this season in the raiding department that includes the likes of Anup Kumar, Shabeer Bapu and Rakesh Kumar. Young, dynamic and fitter than he’s ever been, Rishank’s raw power and sharp turning skills off the chest and shoulders of a defender have been sublime. He began the season as their Do-Or-Die Raid specialist but by mid season, added leading raider to that high-pressure responsibility. His ability to also assess situations well make him THE man for the toughest situations and the confidence that he has found in Season 3 could very well make him Indian Kabaddi’s next poster boy!
Right Cover – Surjeet (Puneri Paltan) – Matches 11 – Tackles – 72 – Tackle Points 46
Immaculate with his timing, consistent with his thigh holds and devastating with his advanced blocks and dashes. Along with Manjeet Chillar and Jasmer Singh he formed the most deadly defensive trio in the league. Five High5’s (5 Tackle points in a game), the highest average tackles per game and a success percentage of over 60% made him the most feared Cover defender and a blip in the Semi-Final can’t erase the great work over the past month.
Right In – Pardeep Narwal (Patna Pirates) – Matches 15 – Raid Points 116 – Tackle Points 5
Pardeep Narwal has in a few months, gone from being a mere spectator to the likes of Manjeet and Ajay on the Bengaluru Bulls’ bench in Season 2, to being the leading raider and the Super Raid King of Pro Kabaddi Season 3 with the Pirates. Patna scored 15 Super Raids this season and 10 of them have come from this Lord of the “Dubki” or dive under the chain of defense.
Right Corner – Sandeep Narwal (Patna Pirates) – Matches 13 – Tackles – 88 – Tackle Points 50
Relinquished of his captaincy, the “Beast from the East” came out with renewed vigour and proved why he’s perhaps India’s next big thing. In terms of sheer impact, Sandeep Narwal has been in a league of his own and created a zone of torture on the right corner. His lower body strength and the resulting balance with his monster blocks are breathtaking to watch and his back holds were literally picking up the best raiders in the league and tossing them off court. With 27 assists as well, he held the Patna Pirates’ together, hijacked every raiding unit and made them walk the plank towards the sitting blocks on the sidelines.
Jasmer Singh Gulia (Right Corner – Puneri Paltan)
Fazel Atrachali (Left Corner – U Mumba)
Jang Kun Lee (Raider – Bengal Warriors)
Nitin Tomar (Raider – Bengal Warriors)
Deepak Niwas Hudda (All Rounder – Puneri Paltan)