Fondly known as the Flying Thakur, Ajay was born on May 1st, 1986 in the Dabhota village of Nalagrah District of Himachal Pradesh to a Kabaddi family. His father Chottu Ram was a state level wrestler. His cousin Rajinder also played for the Indian National Kabaddi Team.
Childhood and the early years
Coming from a sports background, the prodigy had an inkling towards Kabaddi from the start and wanted to make his name big in the world of sports, carrying on his family legacy. This was evident when he ran away from home at the age of 10 to play Kabaddi.
Ajay did his schooling from Sant Ishar Public School, Mohali, Punjab and was always engaged in Kabaddi. He attended local matches and polished his raw skills passed on through his genes. His family was always supportive of him, especially his sister Disha Thakur.
He completed his graduation from Government Post Graduate College, Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh. He joined Air India soon after and represented them at the Industrial National Championships.
Known for his immaculate skills to pull his team out of the direst of situations, he captains the Indian National Kabaddi Team and Tamil Thalaivas in the Pro Kabaddi League currently. He has brought his experience and his skills as a raider to great effect and has emerged with flying colors from places where there was no hope.
As a leader, he commands immense respect not only within the Indian and Tamil Thalaiva teams but also from the opposition teams.
Ajay Thakur- Pro Kabaddi Career
At the onset of Pro Kabaddi League, he played for Bengaluru Bulls for the initial two seasons. In season one he scored a total of 122 raid points of 15 matches with an average of 8.13 raid points per match and 5 super 10’s being placed in the 4th place trailing behind the power king Maninder Singh by 8 points. Considering the fact that he played this season suffering from Typhoid and high fever, shows his dedication towards the sport and his never fall down attitude. He later said, “Yes, I lost 11 Kgs due to Typhoid, but the team needed me and that was most important”. The grit and determination showcased by him set milestones and shows what it takes to be a sportsman.
In season two, he became the third best raider with 79 raid points from 13 matches trailing behind raid machine Rahul Chaudhari and Kashling Adake. For every great player, there comes a flat line in his form. Thakur experienced this during the third and the fourth season of Pro Kabaddi League while playing for Puneri Paltan. He could not put an impressive show with his raiding. In season three, he supported Deepak Hooda to reach the semifinals and play against Patna Pirates. However, the Paltans went down with their held high in the semis and the Pirates went to win the title. Paltans secured the third position. He was playing this season with injuries.
In season 4, his bad form continued, just scoring 63 points from 16 matches. Paltans again had to be satisfied with the third position while Pirates won the title.
Season 5 was a different story for Ajay as he was purchased by Tamil Thalaivas. He rose up again and fought back against himself and went on to cement why he is known as the ‘Escape Artist’ and that he not only tackles multiple points in a single raid and escapes the defenders, but also fights any obstacle life throws at him. He scored a total of 213 raid points with 12 Super 10’s in his kitty. He became the best raider in the team and went to become the 3rd best of the season. From there on, there was no looking back for Ajay and his midas touch continued. He has already played 100+ games and has scored over 750 points in the Pro Kabaddi League. (Stats till Season 7). His most prolific season was the fifth.
He has been playing in the Indian National Kabaddi Team since 2013 and has brought home pride and accolade. He was one of the youngest players to represent India at the age of 19. He had won gold medals representing Indian at the 2007 Asian Indoor Games and the 2013 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
He rose to prominence after the 2014 Incheon Games, where India won the gold medal in Kabaddi.
He has won gold at the 2014 Asian Games, 2017 Kabaddi Championship and a bronze at 2018 Asian Games. His big moment came in the 2016 Kabaddi World cup which happened in India. India had already won the first two world cups and was looking forward for their third title when they took on Iran in the finals. During the half time, India went on a trailing situation and was behind Iran by five points. Into this situation, Ajay came in scoring a 4-point raid taking India to the lead, from where India did not had to look back and won the match and the title hands down. Ajay Thakur went on to become the number one raider with the most raid points and he was also the overall highest point scorer with 68 points. He also scored a super 10 in the game.
This was not the first time Ajay had come to the rescue of his team. He has saved many a matches for his team which was either going by the thread or those they were losing. He once saved Tamil Thalaivas singlehandedly from going down against Bengal Warriors (just one of many thrilling matches Ajay has produced).
Skills and Signature moves
Ajay is an attacking player and he uses his signature moves – the frog jump and the running hand touch to a great effect and it is a visual treat in itself to see him launch himself off the ground, touch one or more defenders whilst air-borne and land beyond anyone’s reach, before escaping to safety. His calm and composed demeanor under pressure earned him the nickname ‘Iceman'. He uses his height (1.85m) to his great advantage in reaching the midline and this gives an added edge to him over the others. He has recovered well from his injuries and has shifted his game to not further the areas affected, his game changed from toe touch to running hand touch, escape and turn. This is one of the signs of an intelligent raider who uses his strengths and covers up his weaknesses.
List of achievements
For his exceptional performance, he was awarded Man of the Tournament in Kabaddi World Cup 2016. In 2019, the nation honored this great athlete with the Padma Shri award – The fourth highest civilian honor in the Republic of India.