15 October 2019
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Dabang Delhi has been the team to beat in the seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League. A lion's share of the team's show - where they topped the points table with 85 points after the league phase - could be attributed to the performance of their young raider Naveen Kumar.
The 19-year-old - who made his PKL debut with Delhi last season - has accrued 20 Super 10s from 21 starts this year. Naveen, with 270 points to his name, is third on the list of leading scorers behind Bengaluru's Pawan Kumar Sehrawat (335) and Pardeep Narwal (304).
On Wednesday, the focus will once again be on Naveen as Delhi take on Bengaluru in the first semifinal of PKL-7 in Ahmedabad. Naveen had a part to play on both the occasions these two teams played this season. Naveen led with 13 raid points in Delhi's home leg clash where they edged past Bengaluru 33-31. Naveen made his mark with 14 points in Delhi's tied (39-39) finish against Bengaluru.
A splendid run of form through the season notwithstanding, Naveen is now gearing up for the final push. "I am happy to have contributed for the team's cause. But the job isn't done yet. We will have to come up with a good show to help Delhi win their maiden title," Naveen told TOI.
Naveen's game-changing act may remind many of Patna Pirates' key player Pardeep Narwal, but the Bhiwani native prefers not to dwell much on it. "Being compared with a star player like Pardeep is an honour. He has been doing well for Patna for many seasons. On the other hand, I have just started to perform and there is a long way to go for me," Naveen said.
Delhi skipper Joginder Singh Narwal feels Naveen's biggest asset is his ability to remain grounded despite seeing success at such a young age. "Naveen may be just 19 but his game awareness and the ability to pierce through the opposition's defence has helped our team immensely," Joginder said.