Ghar Se Panga: Naveen Kumar journey as Kabaddi's fastest raider
The Corona virus pandemic has led to the postponement of the much-awaited Pro Kabaddi League season 8. To keep the high-intensity game of Kabaddi going, Kabaddi Adda tries to eliminate the virtual gap between the athletes and fans by talking to Kabaddi athletes on their changed routines and fitness maintenance at home.
Our conversation with Naveen Kumar revealed his determination. Naveen has always been passionate about Kabaddi. His story reveals his journey from mud to mat. Read below to know how this youngster became an unstoppable raider.
KA: What is your schedule in this lockdown?
Naveen: Lockdown days are tough. Neither can we practice together nor skip them. I practice twice a day - mornings are spent running, sprint, weight training, pull-ups, etc. according to my schedule for a total of two hours. In the evening, I focus on skill and footwork.
KA: How are you spending time with your family?
Naveen: Spending time with family during this forced lockdown has a bliss. We watch Ramayana together. Often I help mom in the kitchen and am learning to cook. This is useful because sometimes we are required to self-cook on duty.
KA: Was anyone from your family into sports? What inspired you to play Kabaddi?
Naveen: My grandpa was a wrestler. My cousin Jyoti Goyat plays Kabaddi. She participated in under 17 Khelo India Kabaddi team. We have several grounds in the village so where ‘Mitti ka Khel’ Kabaddi is often played. Also in school, we played Kabaddi during PT classes. Parents would have preferred that I study rather than play. However, I convinced them to allow me to play Kabaddi. Coaches at ground kept attendance and I was irregular, so they urged me to be regular to gain ₹1500 per month. This was the beginning of my Kabaddi journey. Soon I started gaining interest, training harder to keep improving and now I am here.
KA: What was your family’s reaction?
Naveen: The family was very happy when I played under-17 and won. They fulfilled my every need – fruits, dry fruits, etc. They just wanted me to keep up the hard work. I was later selected in the Haryana team for 1 crore Deen Dayal tournament that was held at Sonipat. Shri Anup Kumar was the captain. That was a big day for me as I played with such a renowned player.
KA: When did you play your first Junior Nationals?
Naveen: I played my first Junior Nationals in 2016. The Haryana team selected me during the State Finals where I represented Sonipat. We played our semi-finals against Rajasthan which had some really good players like Sachin Tanwar, Vikas Kandola, Sunil-Parvesh, and won.
KA: How did you develop your exceptional speed and footwork?
Naveen: I have learned skills and footwork from Shri Jagbir Sihag who trained us twice a day. Speed is the basic need of Kabaddi. To enhance this, I practice running, cross country, 50m, and 100m sprint. If raiding is practiced with speed, footwork can be enhanced.
KA: How were you selected in the Services team? How do you train at Services?
Naveen: I was playing in a local 1 Lakh tournament. The coach liked my game and asked if I was keen to join the Air Force. He collected my documents and informed me about the trials. Eventually, I got selected for the Services team.
Coach Shri Ram Mehar Singh has been an excellent player from the previous generation. He is also a three-time Pro-Kabaddi champion. We train for fitness, practice running, and cross country. He arranges for one week of Army training to increase strength. We have tight schedules but keep learning new things.
KA: Who has been your inspiration?
Naveen: I am inspired by Ajay Thakur whom I saw first in Pro Kabaddi season 1, 2014. I am training my mindset to perform like him and love his skills and footwork. His hand touches on defenders is simply mind-blowing.
KA: How did you get selected in Pro Kabaddi?
Naveen: I was playing Junior Nationals representing SAI and we won Gold. Franchise of Dabang Delhi was present there along with coaches. They urged me to participate in the NYP trials to be held soon. I was fortunate to get selected and was called to Mumbai for a month-long training. From there, I got chosen by the Dabang Delhi team.
KA: What is your memory of the first match at Pro Kabaddi?
Naveen: I was very nervous during our first match against Gujarat Fortunegiants. Everything was new to me - the lightings, noise of the crowd, the playback of memories in my mind, the tension of what spectators would say, everything scared me. It was not a good match for me. After the match, the coach called me personally and told me that - "you have the spirit to perform well. This was the first time and it happens with everyone. It is nothing to fear about. Just have the confidence and rock in the next match." I was now filled with enthusiasm. In the next match against Puneri Paltan, I scored 7 points followed by a Super 10 against Bengaluru Bulls. Now I had solved the mystery of raiding under spotlight and scoring points.
KA: Your Success Mantra
Naveen: To be honest, nothings runs in mind before a match. We try to forget that we have a match and avoid taking any pressure. When we are on the mat, we know that we have to give our hundred percent. The team must win. We have practiced hard. We can do it. We warm up in the morning for around 30 minutes. We relax for the entire day and chill out with teammates. I prefer listening to music and dancing. We do not take any kind of pressure.
KA: Your feelings after Super 10
Naveen: I never realize scoring a Super 10 unless the coach tells me. It is the team winning a match that gives me more happiness. I never think of how much I have scored. My mind is focused on having to play for the team and make it a winner.
KA: Your experience with Joginder Narwal
Naveen: He is an experienced player. He stays cool and asks us not to take pressure otherwise we won’t be able to give our best. The focus should be on raiding, skills, etc. He nudges us when to do empty raid and when to bag points.
KA: Who is the most Challenging Defender according to you?
Naveen: Left corners Fazel Atrachali and Vishal Bhardwaj, the chain of Sunil and Parvesh, and right corner Nitesh Kumar are the toughest according to me. However, I don’t fear to raid against them. It is like if they tackled me once, I need to raid them out thrice.
KA: What was the feeling when you first wore the Indian Jersey?
Naveen: My feelings were very similar to MS Dhoni’s (as shown in the movie Mahendra Singh Dhoni). I was doubting if it was real. I sat for an hour wearing the Indian jersey and lost in my world. My dream was coming true and I had a mixture of feelings. My first call was to my parents. I video-called them to show the jersey. My mom was overwhelmed. Her emotional outburst was evident from her teary eyes and heavy voice.
KA: How has life changed for you after Pro Kabaddi?
Naveen: Most important is that now people know who Naveen Kumar is. Kabaddi has got recognition everywhere from India to abroad. Things are very casual in the village. However, elders praise me here. Kids visit me and take selfies calling me Naveen Express. It feels good and even proud.
Message to youngsters:
Life is all about working hard to pursue your passion and make dreams come true. Quitting is the attitude of losers. Never giving up is the law of life. It is not so easy to reach the destiny. We have to fight against all odds and make things possible for us. Take failures as stepping stones to success. Only then you can achieve your aims and targets in life.
Favorite Indian Kabaddi Player: Ajay Thakur
Favorite foreign Kabaddi Player: Fazel Atrachali
Best Friend in Game: Ankit Sharma
Favorite sport except for Kabaddi: Volleyball
Free time hobby: Dance
Sport you would have played if Kabaddi was not there: None but Army
Favorite Movie: Sufna (Punjabi)
Favorite Actor/Actress: Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani
Favorite car: Audi