On being asked how much will they miss they Pro Kabaddi League, a Dabang Delhi fan emphatically answered: “Bohot hi zyaada (A lot).” He waited for a while, and then screamed even louder: “Hadd se zyada! (Beyond any limits!). It was Delhi’s final home leg match at Thyagraj Stadium on Thursday. In front of them were Group B opponents – Tamil Thalaivas – led by the famous Indian national team captain Ajay Thakur. But for the home fans, who showed up in numbers over the course of entire week, there was going to be one winner – Dabang Delhi.
Sitting outside the stands, 18-year-old, Allahbaksh and Akash, were making posters ahead of the start of the match. On being asked who they see as the hero of the home leg for Delhi, the duo took only name – Naveen Kumar Goyal.
Exactly of the same age as the two fans, Naveen has been a star for Delhi’s campaign this year. The rookie has been dubbed as the “one of the best raiders in India” by Delhi coach Krishan Hooda. At the young age of 18, he has scored over 100 points this season. He was kept quiet in the previous two games, registering only 7 points. But as Delhi bid farewell to Pro Kabaddi for the season, he emerged as one of the many heroes for his side – securing 8 points in the match to give his side a 37-32 win.
At one point in the match, it looked as if Naveen’s heroics would be cut short due to an injury. This was after he returned to the dugout citing some trouble and just when he tried to sit down, the rookie suffered an unfortunate fall. But in a moment that reminded of Tyson Fury getting up after being knocked down, Naveen was back on his feet to earn two more crucial points for his side, before the final whistle.
Delhi coach Krishan Hooda was quick to point out emphatically after the match that they have created history: “Tell me one thing, has any team this season won five matches in the home leg?” A quick take at the results show that Delhi is the first team to do so in 2018. In the same leg, they also defeated Telugu Titans, a team they had never won against before.
“We have achieved 99 percent of what we wanted to do at home. This is a sport, and things can change any moment – but for now – we have achieved the targets we were aiming for,” he added.
Captain Joginder Narwal, further said that he credits the entire team for the success: “Our coach sir has told us that this is a team sport. Not one player wins the match – one player can cost the match, but a team wins it. And we performed as a unit, which is why we got results our way,” he said.
Dhol celebrations at Thyagraj as Dabang Delhi end home leg with five wins in six games pic.twitter.com/vLGews08xe
— Karan P. Saxena (@karanpsaxena92) December 6, 2018
As Delhi bid farewell to Pro Kabaddi till next season – the sounds of dhol rung throughout the stadium and the fans danced jubilantly. Many of them stayed back long after the match, to say one final goodbye – till next year.
UP Yoddha vs Haryana Steelers
The fact that the first match of the day saw Delhi’s two “noisy neighbours” competing against each other, only added to the excitement of the night. The stadium was packed with fans from both the franchises. In a cagey affair, that saw both teams fighting down to the final minute to secure a win, UP Yoddha came out on top by a one-point margin.
Both Haryana and UP needed a win to keep their playoffs alive. With the score level at 25-25, and under 7 minutes remaining on the clock, Haryana captain Monu Goyat entered for a raid that and earned a point to complete his Super 10. He also earned another a bonus point, a strategy he said later was preconceived. “When you keep on getting bonus points, you keep on increasing the lead, without too much investment of strength,” he said at the press conference.
But with just two minutes remaining, Goyat was caught and UP took a three-point lead. A solid tackle from Narender Kumar ended Haryana’s final raid by Naveen and gave UP a 32-31 win.
“We are treating every match as a do-or-die and a close win helps in building the momentum of the team,” UP Yoddha coach Jasveer Singh said after the match. “A victory here has brought us closer to the knockout stages,” he said.