One of the youngest players in VIVO Pro Kabaddi this season, Naveen Kumar, has played an important role in Dabang Delhi K.C.’s campaign so far and has turned out to be good young find for the team. Having made his debut in Dabang Delhi K.C.’s first match against Gujarat Fortunegiants, he spearheaded them to their first victory of the season against Puneri Paltan where he got an impressive 7 raid points.

His first raid points in that match came with a two-point raid, deciding at the last moment to abandon his attempt to perform the Running Hand Touch as he saw the defence up on their toes and close in fast. He managed to stave off the experienced Sandeep Narwal’s attempt to hold on to the raider’s torso using the momentum of his body to throw the all-rounder off balance. He then followed it up to the centre line, such that Left Cover Vinod Kumar’s last-moment try to reel him back proved too late as Naveen’s out-stretched hand touched the line.

Like most raiders’ staple, Naveen prefers to use the Running Hand Touch as his primary weapon while raiding. The 18-year-old is lean and fit, allowing him to execute the move with seemingly minimum effort but that’s deceiving to the eyes.

“I try to practice more of that, so I can use it too good effect during the game,” narrates Naveen. “To affect a Running Hand Touch, I will have to go towards the defence or bring them closer. It’s not that I go touch them as soon as I’m raiding. They’re all good players.”

His four unsuccessful raids in the match notwithstanding, Naveen had won hearts with his labour. “I practice a lot,” Naveen reasons. “For me to be a successful raider, I need to make sure I practice all my strategies and tricks. I make sure to give my 100 percent in each raid.”

Practice for Naveen also involves training the moves against his own teammates, which means that he surrenders the element of surprise to figure workarounds.

“I tell them I am going to attack you the same way I would attack a defender in the match,” he reveals. “It gives me additional confidence to do well in the match if I do well in practice against these defenders.

“If I practice well, only then will I perform better in matches.”

His efforts are calculated though. The teenager has been adapting his style to the team’s strategy or the need of the hour. This means knowing when to attack and when to live to fight another day as his two-point raid against Puneri Paltan showcased. It was, after all, his decision to ditch the Running Hand Touch that ensured that he ensnared two defenders in that raid. He had quickly adapted to the need-of-the-moment in a timely fashion.

“Kabaddi is a team game, so you have to move with the team, depending on what the situation demands,” he says matter-of-factly. “Whether you need a point, or an empty raid. You have to use your mind while raiding and also follow the strategy coach has made.

To be a Tiger

His inexperience, though, doesn’t leave him fazed with the opposition, no matter how big the names on the opposite side of the mat are, even if it’s Sandeep Narwal, who is among the top five in the all-time tackle points list.

“During practice, we review their movements and if you practice well, you know where they are going to tackle or attack you,” he points out. “I have to do what I am supposed to do. I cannot be awed by them. I am playing as well and have practiced hard. Yes, they are star defenders and you have to be careful against them, but you also have to play well against them.”

While the big names from kabaddi leave him unperturbed, he does aspire to emulate the big names from the silver screen.

“I love my fitness and would like to emulate Tiger Shroff’s fitness techniques with my fitness regime,” he hopes.