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Naveen Kumar is an Indian kabaddi player who plays as a raider for the Dabang Delhi KC team in Pro Kabaddi and the Indian national kabaddi team. Naveen is the first player born in the 2000s to feature in Pro Kabaddi and is also the fastest player to reach 500 raid points in the league’s history. The 21-year-old achieved the feat in December 2021, taking just 47 games to reach the landmark.

Teach them young

Born on February 14, 2000, Naveen Kumar’s kabaddi journey started off at an early age. He was introduced to the sport by his grandfather, a former state-level wrestler, and became a top name in his school’s U-17 team before being elected to play in junior nationals where he made it to the finals in 2016.

Naveen completed his higher education from the Kuk University, Haryana, and this was when he competed at the national level for the first time. The 21-year-old ended up as the most successful raider of the tournament, which helped him gain immense recognition.

However, no good thing comes easy. As for Naveen, he had to juggle a lot between his personal and family life while keeping his dream of becoming a top name in Kabaddi alive. But the youngster was encouraged by his family at every step of his life.

“I received the support of my family and childhood coach and realized that I have to do something in the field of Kabaddi,” he once said in an old interview.

The grand entry in Pro Kabaddi

The breakthrough in Naveen’s career came when he won gold with SAI in junior nationals as this was when Dabang Delhi came knocking on his doors. He participated in the NYP (New Young Player) trials and was roped in by the team management in 2018 for Pro Kabaddi Season 6 for a mere INR 6.60 lakhs.

By that time, the team itself was experimenting with different strategies after failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first five PKL seasons. Naveen, meanwhile, made a stable start to his new life, scoring five, seven and three points in his first three games. 

His fourth game against Bengal Warriors, however, was when he showcased his true potential, ending the match with 11 points in a nine-point win. This was the same match where he scored his first-ever Super 10.

He finished PKL season 6 with a tally of 177 points, most by any player from his team. Riding on his scorching form, Dabang Delhi managed to reach the eliminator round where they lost out to UP Yoddha despite Naveen scoring another Super 10.

Pro Kabaddi Season 7 - A step higher

Naveen exceeded expectations in only his second season in Pro Kabaddi. After being retained by Dabang Delhi for INR 30 lakhs, the youngster finished with a tally of 303 points, the third-highest return of PKL season 7. Furthermore, he was on the mat for a whopping 81 per cent of his team’s raids that season.

Credit where it is due; Naveen became one of the most potent raiders in PKL history in little to no time. The youngster tallied an impressive 15 points in the semi-final against Bengaluru Bulls in a 44-38 win as Delhi made it to their first-ever PKL final.

Despite his best efforts of 18 points in the final, Dabang Delhi lost the title to Bengal Warriors in a 39-34 loss.

History in the making

The fact that there was no PKL action in 2020 did not deter Naveen from his goal. As teams prepared for the new season, Naveen had something unique in the offering. In December 2021, lining up against U Mumba, Naveen Kumar broke Maninder Singh’s record to become the fastest player to 500 raid points in the history of Pro Kabaddi. It took the 21-year-old took a mere 47 games to reach the milestone.

Additionally, Naveen also holds the record for the most consecutive Super 10s. The streak started in PKL Season 7 and is now at 26. Pardeep Narwal previously held the record with eight Super 10s until Naveen got past the mark in September 2019 against Patna Pirates.

Naveen Kumar’s Pro Kabaddi stats

Pro Kabaddi Season Team Auction price Matches Raid points
Season 6 Dabang Delhi KC INR 6.60 lakhs (NYP) 22 172
Season 7 Dabang Delhi KC INR 30 lakhs (retained) 23 301
Season 8* Dabang Delhi KC INR 90 lakhs (retained) 5* 81*

Author: Swapnil Bhopatkar

Featured photo: Pro Kabaddi

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