Age is just a number they say…

Kabaddi is a game of people with strong fitness. In order to survive in this sport, along with good fitness, it is necessary to keep injuries away as well. The fast-paced events on the field, the constant stress on the body, degrades the game of many players after they cross 35. Some players, however, continue to overcome all this. This article is an attempt to look at some such ‘young’ players.
1. Dharmaraj Cherlatan – Known by the nickname Anna, Dharmaraj is 45 years old. In the age when many players chose to retire and work as a coach, Anna is still playing on the mat. Despite being the oldest player in Pro Kabaddi, Anna’s fitness can make a 25-year-old feel shy about himself. Anna has also played for India. He has won gold medals for India at the 1999 and 2010 South Asian Games. India won the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup in Ahmedabad. Anna was a member of the winning team. He plays for Indian Railways in domestic competitions in India. Under his leadership, Indian Railways won a gold medal in the 66th Senior National Kabaddi Championship. He was also a member of the winning team of Railways in the 67th Senior National Kabaddi Championship held in March this year.

In Pro Kabaddi, Anna played his first two seasons for the Bengaluru Bulls. In the second season, he recorded the highest tally of tackle points 42 from Bangalore. Since then he has played for teams like Telugu Titans, Patna Pirates, Puneri Paltan, U Mumba, Haryana Steelers. Leading the Patna Pirates in the fourth season, he led the team to its second title in pro kabaddi. Anna’s wife is from Pune and she is also a kabaddi player. Anna’s son is studying in Pune and also takes kabaddi lessons.

2. Jeeva Kumar – Thirty-nine-year-old Jeeva has made a name for himself as a great defender. However, Jeeva’s parents opposed him to enter the kabaddi field. Jeeva’s good play eventually convinced them to allow him to chose kabaddi as his career. Going forward, Jeeva also played for India. While playing for India, he won a gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games. When he is not playing kabaddi, Jeeva works as an assistant manager at State Bank.
In Pro Kabaddi, Jeeva has played for U Mumba, UP Yodha, and Bengal Warriors. He has won pro kabaddi titles from U Mumba and Bengal Warriors. Jeeva is known for his super tackle and dash skills. It was reported by some channels that Jeeva will retire after last year’s season but Jeeva has not yet made any such announcement. Fans will be waiting to see if a team can take advantage of Jeeva’s experience in the eighth season of Pro Kabaddi.
3. Joginder Narwal – As his elder brother played Kabaddi, Joginder also turned to Kabaddi. Seeing that his brother is an Asian gold medalist and has a good job, Joginder was inspired to play kabaddi. His brother also supported him to pursue a career in kabaddi. He also played for Indian Railways.

In Pro Kabaddi, Joginder played for Bangalore Bulls, U Mumba, and Puneri Paltan. He has been leading the Dabang Delhi team for the last two seasons. Under his leadership, Delhi reached the final last season.

4. Jasveer Singh – There was a time when Jasveer’s brother was trying to become a kabaddi player. But for some reason he could not. Jasveer decided to achieve what his brother could not. Soon he started playing Kabaddi from Punjab Police. After playing for Punjab Police for three years, he started playing for ONGC. But his desire to play for India was not being fulfilled. He got a chance to prove himself at Pro Kabaddi in the year 2014. He performed well in the first season of Pro Kabaddi and played a key role in helping the team Jaipur Pink Panthers win the title. He won a gold medal for India at the Asian Games that year. He was also a member of the Indian team that won the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016, four years ago. The Government of India honored him with the Arjuna Award for his contribution to Kabaddi. Thirty-six-year-old Jasveer is popularly known as ‘Nawab’.

After playing for Jaipur for four seasons, he played for the Tamil Thalaivaj team. He failed to get a place in any team last season. All eyes will be on whether Jasveer is available for auction again this season or announces his retirement.

5. Nilesh Shinde – Nilesh’s family moved from Chiplun to Dombivali. Nilesh knew that he wanted a job as soon as possible as the conditions at home were bad. At times he used to make money by distributing newspapers. On the other hand, he was also trying to get a job in Maharashtra Police through sports quota. His love for kabaddi while doing all this was still on. Nilesh used to play for Mahindra & Mahindra. But if you want to run a family, you need a stable job. That made Nilesh keep trying. One day while this was going on, Nilesh got a job from Bharat Petroleum. Coincidentally on the same day, his name also got on the police merit list. This time, however, Nilesh chose his love for kabaddi and quit his job in the police force. He accepted a job with Bharat Petroleum.

Meanwhile, Nilesh became famous as a kabaddi player. He led Maharashtra and won a gold medal at the national level. In his first season of pro kabaddi, he got a chance to play for the Bengal Warriors. Pro Kabaddi changed his life. After playing for Bengal for four seasons, he played for Dabangg Delhi for the fifth season. Nilesh’s experience as a senior player has benefited the teams from time to time. After the fifth season of Pro Kabaddi, however, Nilesh made a big mistake. Nilesh was charged in connection with a fight at a local tournament in Mumbai. His name was then dropped from the Pro Kabaddi auction list. Due to this incident, there is almost no chance that we will ever get to see Nilesh back in action at Pro Kabaddi.

6. Bajirao Hodage – Bajirao, the son of a mill worker from famous BDD Chawl in Mumbai, may not have dreamed that he would go ahead and play in Pro Kabaddi. But his willingness to work hard and the quality of game he possessed made things easy for him. Due to poor financial conditions, Bajirao used to make money by selling songs on CDs for Rs.20.  He later got a job as a housekeeper at ICICI Bank. Despite spending most of his time at work, he still developed a passion for gym and kabaddi. That helped him get a job with the Maharashtra Police Force. Bajirao got a chance to display his skills to a larger audience once he started playing for Maharashtra Police. Bajirao’s fearlessness while playing with well-known teams like Bharat Petroleum and Air India caught the eye of many. On the strength of this, he was selected by the Bengal Warriors in the first season of Pro Kabaddi. Bajirao is one of the few players to be selected in Pro Kabaddi without playing any national-level competition.

After playing Pro Kabaddi’s first three seasons for Bengal, he played his fourth season for the Patna Pirates. The Patna Pirates also won the title this season. The next two seasons he played for Dabang Delhi and Jaipur. Bajirao was not picked by any team last season. He currently plays in various competitions for Maharashtra Police.