PUNE: Ever since its inception, the Pro Kabaddi League has acted as a springboard for aspiring players to dream big and establish an identity of their own.
Dabang Delhi raider Manjeet is one such budding talent who has been a beneficiary of the immensely popular league. The league helped him emerge from obscurity and though he hasn’t yet become a household name in the same mould as his ‘role model’ Pardeep Narwal, he has certainly improved beyond recognition since making his debut in 2021.
What is more, from being a relative unknown, Manjeet’s impressive performances haven’t gone unnoticed and the promising raider is ready to shoulder the burden of expectations. Numbers don’t lie and just one cursory glance at the statistics will tell you why opposition defenders are wary of Manjeet.
In Season 8, he had scored 11 points in five matches. However, he has established himself as one of the main raiders for Delhi this season with 47 points in nine matches. That’s quite a transformation and buoyed by his form, the raider is keen to spread his wings even further and help his team in defending the title it had won last year.
When asked how he was introduced to the sport, Manjeet said: “My father was a good kabaddi player, so he introduced me to the sport. I started playing the game in my village – Rindhana (Haryana). When I saw Pardeep, who is from my village, play in Pro Kabaddi, I too got inspired to take up the sport professionally. So, I practised hard, put in the necessary performances and reached this stage.”
As well as UP Yoddhas raider Pardeep, Manjeet looks up to another ‘star’ player and unlike the former, it is someone who plays alongside him. “I always dreamt of playing with Naveen bhaiyya (Naveen Kumar) and I have known him since my childhood days. It feels great to play with him. He has asked us to play freely without any pressure. He has also told us that every player is a captain in the team.”
The genial Manjeet observed that a lot has changed since he started playing in Pro Kabaddi. “Everyone has a dream of playing in this tournament and I’m no different. A lot has changed since I had first started playing. A player’s personality and outlook changes after rubbing shoulders and picking the brains of the seasoned campaigners. Initially, I was a tad nervous when I played in a daunting atmosphere, but now I’ve grown accustomed to the pressure,” added Manjeet.
Manjeet is well aware that a lot will be riding on him when Delhi takes on home team Puneri Paltan on Tuesday. The Pune leg so far hasn’t been favourable to the reigning champion as it lost two successive matches and, to make matters worse, it also had to contend with an injury to its captain Naveen. Manjeet isn’t fazed by the situation and is ready to do what he does best. ‘Raid’ the home team in search of crucial points.