Maninder Singh’s exploits on the kabaddi mat have earned him the title ‘Jaipur ka Panther.’
The slogan, pasted beside his printed portrait, was raised on many a poster at the National Sports Club of India, Mumbai. The raider didn’t fail to disappoint his fans as he helped the Jaipur Pink Panthers win the inaugural Pro Kabaddi League.
The 24-year-old holds Sunday’s win as the biggest moment of his career. “I have never won, or even competed in anything this big,” he explains in Punjabi. The 129 raid points he earned in 16 games put him in third position among the top scoring raiders of the tournament.
But for him, the statistic was only a number. What he really values is the increased stature his performances have brought him. “Fans know my name and keep chanting it during matches. It feels good. But what also has been a morale booster is that the coaches too have started taking note of my performances,” he says.
On the day of the final Maninder, or ‘Mani’ as he is fondly called among the Jaipur faithful was again in form. Eight points in the final against U Mumba earned him the best raider of the game at the NSCI. It did take him some time to start off though.
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Early in the game, the Jalandhar native failed in his raids. But as he picked up momentum, so did the Jaipur team. The first of three all outs for the eventual winners came in the 13th minute of the match, taking the score to 13-7 in Jaipur’s favour. From there on it was the Maninder and Jasvir Singh show. Both attackers worked well to gather bonus points.
The Punjab Police player, Maninder, was handy on the defensive front too. He often partnered the diminutive, yet effective Prashant Chavan, who won the best defender of the match award.
The Jaipur franchise eventually finished as comfortable 35-24 winners in a final that was a repeat of the opening fixture of the tournament. A consolation for runners-up U Mumba was their captain Anup Kumar, winning the Most Valuable Player award for the tournament.
Earlier in the day, the Patna Pirates got the better of the Bangalore franchise 29-22 in the third-place play-off.