PKL 9: Fazel Atrachali becomes Pro Kabaddi League's most successful defender

Puneri Paltan's Fazel Atrachali (foreground) became the most successful defender in PKL history Pro Kabaddi League

Fazel Atrachali, one of the most feared defenders in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), is also the most successful defender in PKL history now.

The Iranian, known as the Sultan in PKL, went past Manjeet Chhillar's tally of 391 tackle points to top the list for most tackle points in PKL. Fazel, who is captaining Puneri Paltan this season, achieved the feat in his 133rd game on Friday. His seven tackle points against UP Yoddhas took him to 397 overall, just three shy of becoming the first defender in PKL history to score 400 tackle points.

What makes Fazel Atrachali special?

Fazel was one of the first overseas players who made an impact in PKL. He's manned the left corner position like no one else and is a proper powerhouse in defence. His wrestling background, coupled with his incredible strength has made him a terror for raiders. Along with his iron-clad tackles, he's got excellent game sense and a very calm head on his shoulders, which have aided him in becoming one of the best captains in the League.

He's also the captain of the Iranian national kabaddi team and led his nation to a historic gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games. No points for guessing, he had plotted Iran's win over India in the semifinal.

Oh, and he also loves himself a bit of Bollywood and is super fond of Indian food and music. He can speak a fair bit of Hindi too - "Bohot badhiya match!" was his reaction after Puneri Paltan's win over Bengal Warriors last month.

What's Fazel's PKL record like?

He's had a very successful PKL career - Two titles, two "Best Defender" awards and one runner-up finish.

He won the title with U Mumba when he made his debut in season two. He made a move to Patna Pirates and won the League with them in season four. He then captained Gujarat Giants to the final in season five. He's also the most expensive overseas player in PKL history - Puneri Paltan signed him on for ₹1.38 crore this season.

Fazel Atrachali's PKL career

Season 2: Made his debut, was an unknown commodity. Picked up 12 points in five games. Won the title with U Mumba.

Season 3: His impressive display in the little match time he got last season saw him become a regular in the U Mumba lineup. He played 11 games and bagged 33 points.

Season 4: Fazel went to Patna Pirates and won his second title in three seasons. He was also named the best defender of the season for his 52 tackle points in 16 games.

Season 5: He then moved to Gujarat Giants [the team was called Gujarat FortuneGiants then], who made their PKL debut this season. He formed a lethal defensive unit alongside his compatriot Abozar Mighani and Sunil Kumar. The three of them, collectively, scored 179 tackle points and Gujarat Giants finished runners-up that season. They had the second-most tackle points - 254.

Season 6: Fazel had a homecoming in season six as he found his way back to U Mumba for ₹ 1 crore, which was the biggest amount paid for an overseas player then. He finished as the third-best defender with 83 tackle points.

Season 7: His best season to date. He scored 84 tackle points and was the season's best defender. U Mumba lost in the semifinal to eventual champions Bengal Warriors.

Season 8: A poor season for Fazel. U Mumba failed to make it to the playoffs, finishing 10th with just seven wins. Fazel managed 51 tackle points in 22 games.

Season 9: He traded the U Mumba jersey for their rivals Puneri Paltan for PKL 9. He became the League's most-expensive foreign player and was handed the reins at the club. Was put in charge of a young team at Puneri Paltan, has done very well so far.

How important is Fazel Atrachali for Puneri Paltan?

Fazel, along with the 12 other Iranians contracted to PKL teams, had missed the opening weekend of PKL 9 and the team struggled in his absence. They lacked a leader on the mat and were haste in their playing style. Fazel's arrival brought some much-needed calm and balance to the team.

Iranian, who had spent a few weeks training with the squad before the season, organized his troops and ensured each of them knew their roles. Known for his bursts of advice every now and then, he's quick to congratulate his players when they do well with high 5s and hugs and also consoles them if they don't. His presence on the mat is a must for Puneri Paltan, who're gunning for their first title.