On Saturday, India was trailing 13-18 at the end of the first half in the final of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. The defending champions needed a spirited effort on the mat to turn things around and it was their best raider who rose to the occasion.
Ajay Thakur’s brilliant raids against a strong Iranian defence overturned a halftime deficit, propelling India to a memorable win and its third title in the Kabaddi World Cup.
As Indian captain, Anup Kumar, put it simply at the end of the game,
“Ajay won us the final.”
Ajay Thakur’s outstanding efforts in the final made him the most successful raider in the tournament with 64 raid points, ahead of Thailand’s Khomsan Thongkham. This was also the fifth time in the tournament that the towering 30-year-old had completed a ‘Super 10’, which means he scored more than 10 raid points in the match. It’s little wonder then that Ajay Thakur is called the ‘Virat Kohli of Pro Kabaddi’ by his fans.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the super talented Ajay ‘Frog Jump’ Thakur.
1. Ajay hails from the village of Dabhota in the Nalagarh district of Himachal Pradesh. His passion for kabaddi is a trait that runs in his family.
His father was a wrestler and his uncle a kabaddi coach, who advised an 18-year-old Ajay to appear for trials at Sports Authority of India’s Bilaspur centre in 2004. Merely three years later, the talented kabaddi player had made a place for himself in the Indian team.
2. When Ajay was just 10, he ran away to take part in a kabaddi tournament.
His cousin, Rakesh Kumar, was a kabaddi player who had represented India and an inspired Ajay had decided to follow the latter’s footsteps.
3. When Ajay was first selected for the Indian team, he was extremely thin and was mocked by other players for his weight.
Determined to rectify this, Ajay gained a massive 12 kgs in just 15 days! He later recalled,
“I was stick thin when I joined the Indian camp. Joginder Narwal, Rakesh Kumar and the others worked on my fitness and fed me continuously which helped me gain 12 kilograms in 15 days.”
4. Ajay’s biggest strengths are his running hand touch and his signature move, the frog jump.
The “running hand touch” is a common move in which the raider stretches to get a touch point while charging toward the defenders. The “frog jump”, on the other hand, is a unique move that sees the player jump in the air with his feet splayed apart. The fleet-footed Ajay has mastered the frog jump, a move that sees him fly away from the defenders’ circle, taking them by surprise. Interestingly, he did not know the name of this move until hearing about it on TV!
5. Widely regarded as one of the best raiders India has ever produced, Ajay Thakur has helped the Indian team win many awards.
He also played a key role in the Indian team’s gold medal win at the 2014 Asian Games and 2016 South Asian Games.
6. Ajay Thakur played for the Bengaluru Bulls in the first two seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League before moving on to the Puneri Paltan team.
He has played 58 matches in Pro Kabaddi, scoring 316 raid points and 11 defence points!
7. During the 2014 edition of the Pro Kabaddi League, Ajay was suffering from typhoid and high fever but he didn’t let it stop him from playing for his team.
He later said,
“Yes. I lost 11 kgs due to typhoid, but the team needed me, and that was most important.”
8. With a height of 6 feet 2 inches, Ajay has one of the longest reaches (to midline) among the current lot of kabaddi players.
Currently employed as a Customer Service Supervisor in the Air India, the lanky raider has also served in the Indian Navy for a brief period of time.
9. Ajay’s favourite thing to eat is makki ki roti and sarson ka saag.
Apart from kabaddi, the 30 year-old-enjoys watching wrestling and boxing – he is a big fan of the Indian boxing star, Vijender Singh. He also enjoys biking in the cool climes of his home state, Himachal Pradesh, and owns two bikes.
10. A huge animal lover, Ajay loves spending time with his two dogs – Peter and Badal.
Ajay loves his village and dreams of setting up a kabaddi academy for locals youngsters who have taken to the sport after Ajay’s success.