“I received the support of my family and childhood coach and realized that I have to do something in the field of Kabaddi.” A small statement made by Naveen Kumar in an old interview is coming to life in the seventh season of Pro Kabaddi. The 19-year-old raider is the first player born in the 2000s to feature in the league and has already gone on to become a defender’s nightmare and Dabang Delhi’s superpower.

Though still a teenager, Naveen displays immense maturity on the mat, fighting for the well-being of the team rather than going for individual glory. Delhi’s coach Krishnan Kumar Hooda and captain Joginder Singh Narwal have played a pivotal role in defining and nurturing the abilities of the fleet-footed raider and the results have been quite evident for all to see.

Laying the groundwork

Naveen’s passion for the game has grown leaps and bounds since he received a call for trials from Dabang Delhi. What sets him apart is his uncanny ability to lure the defenders, rather than directly attacking them. He tempts the opposing defenders to attack him and then takes points on the counter. This is only possible because he possesses incredible speed and agility on the mat and applies these qualities to near perfection.

Though his signature move is the running-hand touch, the youngster is also known to execute the toe-touch and frog jump convincingly to take the defenders by surprise. Naveen’s performance from the sixth season has only ascended to a position of strength and has been the driving factor for Delhi’s improved performances. 

A numbers game

In his first PKL season with Delhi in 2018, Naveen became the second-youngest player in league history to score a Super 10 in just his fourth match. Over the course of the ongoing season, Naveen has already crossed the 200 raid points mark, a drastic improvement from his debut season which he ended with 177 points. Not just that! He has also etched his name in the history books by becoming the first player to register 13 consecutive Super 10’s in a single season, leaving behind the brilliant Pardeep Narwal.

His phenomenal outing in the current season has made him one of the frontrunners to land the coveted PKL’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ award. The immaculate raider has also left Telugu Titans’ Siddharth Desai in his trail, going on to steal the limelight instead.

Due to his presence, Delhi have been able to find an adequate balance between offence and defence. With veteran defenders like Ravinder Pahal and Vishal Mane providing their years of experience at the back, the young raider gives stability to the attack by charging at the opponent’s defensive lines with sheer speed and strength.

The Delhi raider’s laurels so far have been credited to his humbleness and hard-working attitude and given his match-winning performances, he is surely equipped to reach greater heights in the near future.

Feature image courtesy: Star Sports & PKL