Name: Ajay Thakur
Key move: Ajay Thakur's biggest weapon is the running hand touch. While it's a common move which is used by many raiders, Thakur's success rate with it is immaculate. With his long hands, the lanky raider can stretch to get a touch point while charging towards the defenders. Thakur has also mastered the frog jump, that sees him fly away from the defenders. His recent from has been bit of a worry, but his record justifies his place in the team.
Past record: He was part of the gold medal-winning Indian teams at the 2014 Asian Games and 2016 South Asian Games.
Thakur, who hails from the Nalagarh district of Himachal Pradesh, has sports running in his family. His father was a wrestler and his uncle a kabaddi coach. His cousin also played kabaddi, and it's hardly surprising that Thakur followed suit. He recalls finding it tough to practise kabaddi in his native Dabhota which had a hilly terrain. But Thakur, with a combination of determination and talent, needed just three years to break into the Indian side after appearing for trials at the Sports Authority of India centre at Bilaspur in 2004.
For a kabaddi player to be compared with India's cricketing heartthrob was something unthinkable few years ago, but Thakur is called as the 'Virat Kohli of Pro Kabaddi' by a few. Thakur though prefers to remain himself. Strong, quick and lethal.
The Himachal Pradesh lad was the third best raider in season two of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) where he scored 79 points to guide Bengaluru Bulls to the final. Although the Bulls went down to U Mumba in the final, Thakur left the crowd awestruck by his super raids, which had U Mumba struggling at a point.
However, a move to Puneri Paltan in season three didn't seem to work that well for Thakur as he endured an indifferent season. In the fourth season, things again didn't go according to plan, but as the tournament progressed the 30-year-old showed glimpses of his old self.
Thakur faces tough competition from fellow raiders for a starting place in the Indian team at the World Cup, but coach Balwant Singh could be tempted to try Thakur in the initial stages of the tournament to help him get some form back. An in-from Thakur is a totally different player, who can pretty much guarantee India another World Cup.
With the experience of winning big medals for India, Thakur could just rise to the occasion again. His recent from reflects inconsistency, but a look at Thakur's performances when he is in the groove will always keep his opponents on their toes.
(With inputs from Star Sports press release)