In Pro Kabaddi League this season, Delhi Dabang did not have the best of the starts. Three consecutive defeats last month saw the elimination threat starting to loom over the side. A change in fortunes, though, occurred in November. With the side winning three encounters in last four games, including a victory over Gujarat Fortunegiants in their home on Tuesday, Delhi now appear to be challenging for a place in the play-offs. But if the young raider Naveen Kumar is to be believed, their team could be bound for the finals.
In an exclusive interview to indianexpress.com, the 18-year-old raider from the Delhi team said, “The results are starting to come our way. Now we are not eyeing just the playoffs, we are looking for a place in the finals.”
Talking about the 29-26 win over Gujarat on Tuesday, Naveen said, “Our team played really well, we played as per the strategies and planning discussed by the coach. We were strict while defending and we scored points on time while going on raids. Hence, we won the match,” he said. “We hope to perform even better than this in the coming games,” he added.
Naveen, who hails from a small village, Bhaini Kungar in Bhiwani district of Haryana, had a chance encounter with the sport at the age of 11. His grandfather took him to play kabaddi with a group of boys, who were being trained in the village. “There was a guruji who saw my game, and asked me to join the training. That’s where my journey began,” Naveen said.
“After training for 2-3 years, my U-17 school team won the gold prize, and I bagged the tag of the best raider. My coach, my parents supported me and asked me to follow my heart and continue to play the sport, and it led me to this platform,” he said.
In PKL this year, Naveen has registered 4 Super 10s in 11 matches so far, and became the second youngest player in the tournament history to register a Super 10. He has various moves in his arsenal, but he prefers the running hand touch move to score points.
Talking about his techniques, the youngster said, “I plan my strategies as per the defenders who I am facing. Which defenders dives, which defender tries to catch – I have to take these things in mind and plan accordingly. When I enter, I try to dodge and free a defender from his area, and get him closer to myself. When I see someone closer to me, I stretch my hand to get a touch and win the point,” he said.
Despite his age, Naveen is enjoying challenges against the top defenders in the tournament and is pleased with his performances. “We had a game against Bengal Warriors, in which I scored a Super 10, against the star defender Surjeet Singh Narwal. He is one of the best defenders in the Indian national team, and it feels great scoring a point against him,” he said. “I am looking forward to going against Fazal Atracheli in our next game U Mumba,” Naveen added.
Talking about his future goals, the youngster said that he dreams to represent India in kabaddi one day. “My dream is to represent India one day. I am working hard towards achieving my goals, and will continue to do so,” he said.