"I train regularly to improve", PKL 9 Best defender Ankush Rathee ready to rattle Raiders
The Pro Kabaddi League since its inception has observed rapid and continuous improvement in the quality of Kabaddi over the recent seasons. And that is perhaps among the reasons why Kabaddi has become the 2nd most watched sport in India with 222 million of viewership coming last year alone.
If we go by the Modern Kabaddi gameplay, then it has enabled Raiders to have an extra edge and through latest technologies, it has become much easier for them to understand "What works and What doesn't".
The Dubki, the Toe touch, the Running hand touch, the Scorpion kick and the Frog Jump among other moves might have made life difficult for Defenders but for every Dubki there is a Thigh hold, for every Toe-touch there is an Ankle hold and for every Frog jump there is a Chain block.
While Defenders are prone to be present at the receiving end of Raiders, one name that kept Raiders at their feet last season was Jaipur Pink Panthers' Ankush Rathee.
He not only bagged the Best Defender of the Season Award but also played a more than just a pivotal role in helping the Jaipur Pink Panthers secure the ravishing PKL title for the 2nd time in the history.
At just 22 years of age, Ankush set a new standard for emerging talents in the league, offering a glimpse of what lies ahead in the sport's future. Ankush's journey to his breakthrough season is nothing short of remarkable.
Although he didn't make his debut immediately, the young defender climbed the ranks within the Jaipur Pink Panthers during Season 7, honing his skills through rigorous training alongside the team's most experienced members.
Following a season without any game time with the Bengaluru Bulls, Ankush was once again recruited by the Pink Panthers as a New Young Player the following year. In what was his debut season, Ankush proceeded to deliver an inspiring performance as a youngster, accumulating an impressive total of 89 tackle points.
The breakdown of his defensive stats are absolutely sensational. Not only did he the 10th highest number of Super tackles but also topped the chart of Most High 5's in a season - 9. His tackle success rate in 24 matches was 64% and out of 132 total tackles, he was unsuccessful just 43 times.
On the back of that wonderful debut season, Ankush was retained by Jaipur Pink Panthers, leaving a very few surprised. He finds himself along with Abhishek KS, Ashish and Devank in the Existing young players category.
Ahead of the groundbreaking 10th season, Ankush Rathee sat down to talk about his Kabaddi inspiration, how it all started for him and how well is he prepared for Jaipur's title defense. The Rohtak-born defender was inspired to take Kabaddi seriously, thanks to players like Rajesh Narwal and Mohit Chillar.
He also recalls his elder Brother Amit Rathi, who was a part of Bengaluru Bulls in season 1, helping him understand the game and realize his dreams of becoming Professional Kabaddi player that he is today.
The 22-year-old is also thankful for the platform PKL has provided for youngsters like him who dream to break out as the next big thing in Kabaddi. He also thanked his Jaipur Pink Panthers head Coach Sanjeev Baliyan and captain Sunil Kumar for helping him perform at his best level.
Before concluding, Ankush also updated about his preparations for the much awaited PKL Season 10 where he will take the mat as a Reigning champion. With his performance receiving no negative marking last year, the youngster might feel a little pressure as he will look to find a way to maintain his form from last season.
But in his own words, Ankush mentioned that he is training regularly to enrich and empower his skills. In context, it could also be a cryptic message to all the Raiders out there that Ankush is coming back with the same energy and same vengeance.
“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."