Name: Dharmaraj Cheralathan
Position: Right/Left corner defender
Key move/strengths: Dharmaraj Cheralathan is India's most capped kabaddi star, and brings with him a career's worth of experience at the highest level. Having been part of the team for over a decade, the defender brings all his experience into play, not just while trapping a raider, but also in organising the team during an opponent raid. Cheralathan may not start every game for India at the Kabaddi World Cup, but the veteran defender will have plenty to contribute.
Past record: Part of the gold-medal winning Indian team at the 1999 and 2010 South Asian Games.
When a player is involved with a sport at the age of 41, it is usually as a coach or a member of the coaching staff, but Cheralathan will go into the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup as a key player for the hosts. He also had a fantastic season of the Pro Kabaddi League, where the Cheralathan-led Patna Pirates won the title.
The 41-year-old defender is perhaps in the middle of a purple patch. Playing his first World Cup, the greatest moment of his career may still lie ahead of him.
Hailing from the Tiruchanampundi in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, Cheralathan started playing the game as a child. "I had no coach, I learnt the game playing with the big boys in my village. Kabaddi was a very popular pasttime in my hometown," Cheralathan told Firstpost in an exclusive chat.
Cheralathan is an employee with South Central Railways, and is extremely particular about fitness. His duty hours are sandwiched between two training sessions everyday and Cheralathan rarely misses any. "Fitness is very important in kabaddi. If you are fit, you can play better, play every game and play for many years. So I have always maintained my fitness levels," the Tamil Nadu-based defender said.
Cheralathan, nicknamed as 'Anna' by his teammates, is very popular among the team and shares a very good relationship with the younger players as well, thereby making him a great mentor as well.
The veteran Indian defender has a stellar record in the PKL, where he has accumulated 151 defence points in 59 matches played. In season four, Cheralathan scored five or more points on four occasions. His leadership forged Patna Pirates into a cohesive unit and he will be expected to do something similar with the Indian defense, which is already full of superstars from various PKL teams. The 41-year-old will be the glue that binds them together.
With inputs from Star Sports