The raider is now Dabang Delhi’s biggest asset in the league.
The Pro Kabaddi League’s (PKL) ability to churn out talent is extraordinary. Since Pardeep Narwal’s explosion onto the scene, several young players have taken the leading role for their respective teams. Chief among them is Dabang Delhi’s Naveen Kumar. The youngster is the first player born in the 2000s to compete in the Pro Kabaddi League. Naveen has established himself as one of the top raiders in the league by sheer effort and dominance.
Naveen’s kabaddi journey started at school. He became a regular fixture in the U-17 teams before he was selected in the Haryana team where he got to play alongside Anup Kumar. He reached the finals of his first Junior Nationals in 2016 and also won the gold with SAI in the tournament. It was his performances during this tournament that prompted Dabang Delhi to become interested in him. He participated in the NYP trials and got called to the team after a month-long training program.
Naveen Kumar found himself in a Dabang Delhi side that had hardly had a brush with success, after having failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first five seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League. The youngster, 18 at that time, started decently well with scores of five, seven and three in his first three games. But, the fourth game against Bengal Warriors saw Naveen explode into his own, scoring 11 points in a brilliant nine-point victory and registering his first Super 10. After that there was no turning back for the boy wonder.
He scored 177 points in total for the season, finishing eighth in the scoring charts, the most for any Delhi player. His performances also subsequently led to Delhi reaching the playoffs for the first time in their history, finishing third in their zone. Delhi faced off against the Warriors in the first round of the eliminators, winning comfortably courtesy Naveen’s 11 points. They however, lost to UP Yoddha, despite another Super 10 performance by Naveen in the final eliminator.
Delhi took another bold step in Season 7 as Naveen Kumar took full control of the attacking line. It turned out to be the best decision for both Delhi and Naveen. The boy wonder went on to become the youngest MVP in PKL history after he registered 303 points and led his team to the top of the table in style. It was his consistency that amazed everyone, as he led the league in Super 10s (22) and also notched the most consecutive Super 10s in PKL history. Naveen’s consistent high level was what Delhi needed as they qualified for the playoffs with ease.
They played the defending champions Bengaluru Bulls and their marauding raider Pawan Sehrawat in the semi-finals. Faced with a tough challenge, Naveen however exhibited his ferociousness. The youngster proved to be in a class of his own, as he scored 15 points with Delhi making the finals for the first time in their history. Naveen was still at his best scoring 18 points, but Bengal’s team effort outweighed his superhuman lifting and Delhi faltered at the last step.
Season 8: What to expect
The goal is pretty simple for Dabang Delhi, who made sure that Naveen Kumar stays in their fold by retaining him. They need to reach the final again, but this time walk away as victors. After having won the MVP last season, the only trophy that Naveen himself will have eyes on would be the coveted PKL title and leading Delhi to their first crown will be a glorious way to push himself further up the ladder. It is not going to be the same as before, with several new players and a prolonged break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but if anyone can defy the odds it is the young wonder.