After bowing out in the semi-finals of the previous season, Dabang Delhi made a strong start in the seventh edition of the Pro Kabaddi League. The team are currently placed second in the points table with five wins and one tie in the seven matches so far. And despite the team having experienced athletes likes of Joginder Narwal and Ravinder Pahal, it is youngster Naveen Kumar, who has been a key figure in Delhi’s success.
The 19-year-old rookie is the leading the pack having secured the second-highest number of points (65) in the tournament so far. He already has six Super 10s under his name, the most by any player in the seventh season.
But Kumar credits his remarkable performance to the guidance of senior players, especially Joginder Narwal, who he says he considers an “elder brother.”
“It’s a team game so everything will work as per the team coach and senior players. I have personally learned a lot from skipper Joginder Narwal, Ravinder Pahal, Vishal Mane (who has been a part of many winning teams in the previous seasons),” Kumar said to indianexpress.com at Thyagarag Sports Complex in Delhi on Thursday.
Kumar said the motivation he gets from Narwal has had a huge impact on his performance on the mat, and looks forward to playing like him.
“Joginder Narwal is the senior-most player from our team and he mentors us like a coach and elder brother. He plays defence so I’ve learned a lot about how to evade the defenders from him. Before every raid, he motivates me and passes essential tips on how to earn points for the team. I’ve always looked forward to playing like him,” Kumar said.
Kumar said that in a sport like kabaddi what matters is the performance on the mat and the stats don’t matter.
Speaking on Delhi’s strategy in the upcoming home leg, which starts from Saturday, Kumar said, “Every team is equal for us and it all depends on the mistakes a particular side makes during the match. We are training hard and are making different strategies for every team and players.”
Dabang Delhi gear up for the home leg
Two days before they kick-off their home leg against Bengaluru Bulls, Delhi’s head coach Krishan Kumar Hooda said that the team won’t let down their fans this season.
“We have a well-balanced squad comprising both senior and junior players and a good leader in the form of Joginder Narwal. Even Ravinder Pahal is in supreme form, and this is the reason we’ve done so well in the ongoing season,” Hooda told reporters in Delhi.
Speaking about the team’s fitness and mental state, he said, “No one is injured and every player is fit in our team. Lack of fitness increases the chances of injury, but by God’s grace so far none of the players have complained about any injury.”
Speaking about Dabang Delhi’s expectations from their home-leg, the team’s captain Narwal said, “We love playing for the home crowd. Dabang Delhi KC had the best home leg compared to other teams in the previous season.”
“We intend to repeat last year’s success, or in fact, better our performance this year. I’m counting on the loyal support of our fans to help us deliver winning performances this season. Dabang Delhi is not going to disappoint,” he said.
Vishal Mane, another experienced candidate from the Delhi squad was also present at the event. Speaking on his journey with Dabang Delhi, the defender said that of all the franchises he had been associated with Delhi was the best. Mane also praised the skipper for his positive impact on his side.
“I’ve earlier played for U Mumba, Bengal Warriors, Telugu Titans, and Patna Pirates and I feel this is the best journey ever. Our team management has full faith in us and our only goal is to win the final. Our captain is different from the others, as other leaders highlight the mistakes we make, but Joginder puts in the effort to correct them,” Mane said.
The team will aim for the pole position when they kick-off their home leg, which starts from August 24 and will go on till August 30.