When Dabang Delhi were on the verge of going for an all out in their second home leg match on Sunday in Pro kabaddi 2019, their reliable troubleshooter came to the rescue and helped the team climb to the top of the points table.
Nineteen-year-old Naveen Kumar’s progress is easily visible to all kabaddi enthusiasts, as the swashbuckling raider has upped the ante from last year's PKL.
In PKL 2018, he arrived at the kabaddi mat as the New Young Player (NYP), and it took him just a year to clinch the second position in PKL 2019 raider leaderboard, with 104 raid points -- ahead of star raiders such as Pardeep Narwal and Rahul Chaudhari.
Check Pro Kabaddi 2019 schedule and points table here
After the first two home leg matches against Bengaluru Bulls and UP Yoddha and overall nine matches, Naveen Kumar has scored eight SUPER 10s in PKL 2019. Last season, when he emerged on the scene as an NYP, he has scored 172 raid points in 22 at matches.
In an interview with Business Standard, he talks about why he chose kabaddi over other sports and how he keeps himself fit during the off season. Edited excerpts:
When did you start playing kabaddi?
My journey started during childhood when my grandfather, a wrestler, introduced me to the sport. I was raised in Bhiwani, and at that time, there were no other sports there.
After playing U-17 championship, I went on to play at the national level in Bhiwana, where I emerged as the best raider. I received the support of my family and childhood coach and realised that I have to do something in the field of Kabaddi.
How did your family support you?
I was studying as well as devoting my time to kabaddi. My family asked me to choose between Kabaddi and study and I chose the sport, yet I continued studying. I passed class 12 and when I was in the first year of graduation, I was picked as the New Young Player (NYP) for Dabang Delhi. Right now, I am in my second year of graduation. After playing for Dabang Delhi last year, I also got a job in the Air Force.
My family was elated When I was chosen the best raider in U-17. People in my village gave me a heartwarming welcome. I never looked back after that.
Why did you choose kabaddi over other sports?
If I would not have been a kabaddi player, I don’t know which other sport I would be playing. I would probably have been working in the fields or preparing for a government job.
How do you keep yourself fit off season?
Earlier, I used to practice in my village, but now I have a job in the Air Force. I practice with Air Force coach Ram Mehar Singh and keep a close look on fitness and diet. Also during off season, there are various kabaddi championships like junior, senior championship and federation cup and I participate in most of them.
What tactics do you use, as you didn't get tackled through the ankle hold in this season?
It is a skill I have learnt over time. The Delhi coach and I observe my feet movement during practice. Our captain Joginder Narwal is a corner so he advises me on the timing at which ankle hold can be initiated, and asks me to go for the bonus point.