The famed Gujarat Giants defensive unit had taken a beating early on in Pro Kabaddi League 2021 and the Manpreet Singh-coached side had just two wins in their first 10 games. Moreover, their newly appointed captain cum star corner, Ravinder Pahal, too was out with an injury at this point.
The Giants were literally down in the dumps.
They were staring at their fifth loss of the season in just 11 games when they faced off against the Tamil Thalaivas in match 66 of PKL 2021. The Giants had started off well in the match and led 17-14 at the end of the first half. But, things went downhill soon.
The Thalaivas kept mounting the pressure as Super 10s from Manjeet and Ajinkya Pawar put the Chennai-based side in a commanding position with a 3-point lead and 2 minutes left in the contest.
The Adani Sportsline owned Giants' fans were stunned. The Giants on the mat too were shocked at this drastic change of fortunes.
But, their ever-positive coach Manpreet Singh believed. He played, probably, his best card of the season.
He substituted in a certain Pardeep Kumar at the 38th minute.
Now, Pardeep had previously come in as a substitute in various situations for the Giants. He was, in fact, in the starting 7 for the Giants' season opener against Jaipur Pink Panthers. But, Pardeep was yet to create an impact this season.
Singh's decision seemed nothing but a gamble in frustration at this moment. But, little did we know this would be the rise of a new star.
With all the eyes firmly on him, Pardeep Kumar registered a Super Raid to help the Giants to a victory in the dying moments. He finished the match with 4 points in just 2 raids in the match.
A new PKL star was born.
"When the coach sent me in, all that was in my mind was to give it my all. I knew I would get just one or two raids. I did not have win or lose in my mind. Thankfully their defence erred and I managed to emerge as a hero," Pardeep says to The Bridge.
He has consistently found himself in the starting 7 for the first time since Gujarat Giants' season opener and has even scored his first-ever PKL Super 10 against the Bengaluru Bulls with his Hulk-like power.
Hailing from a traditional Indian joint-family background, Pardeep Kumar took up Kabaddi pretty late in his life. In fact, the 27-year-old even admits to have played a lot of volleyball during his early days.
A qualified mechanical engineer, Pardeep found his calling in Kabaddi in 2015 while in college. Within two years, he was playing in the local leagues before emerging as the main raider for Rajasthan in the 2021 Nationals in the absence of their captain Deepak Niwas Hooda.
"I was studying engineering when I found Kabaddi and fell in love with it. If you look at it, I started playing the sport very late in my life compared to a lot of other players. But, I kept working hard and have managed to reach at this stage very quickly by god's grace," he says.
Known for his explosive power on the mat, Pardeep resembles Marvel superhero Hulk a lot. A glimpse through his Instagram feed will show exactly where he generates such power from.
"I was stronger than most people even before I started playing Kabaddi. Playing the sport has only helped me develop more on my physical strength," he chuckles.