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Kabaddi’s newest famous person who nonetheless loves a seista beneath the jaamun tree

It was just some months after the primary Professional Kabaddi League season in 2014 when Ajay Thakur was invited to be the chief visitor for an area junior event in Himachal Pradesh. Instantly after the matches, he can be surrounded by the gamers who would ask for autographs and images.

Now, seven years later, he remembers a type of children beseeching him for a memento.

“’Ajay bhaisaab,’” he recites the phrases the unknown teen had mentioned to him. “’Mujhe aap bohot acche participant lagte ho, fundamental fan hoon aapka.’ Then we took {a photograph} collectively.

“As luck would have it, we’re teammates now.”

That persistent teen is Dabang Delhi’s talismanic raider Naveen Kumar Goyat – a thin boy who weighed beneath 45 kgs again then, however is now one of many brightest new stars within the sport.

The phrase ‘new,’ is maybe used loosely. The 21-year-old is presently enjoying in his third season of the marquee league, however he had already grow to be his group’s spearhead in 2018 – his debut season – as an 18-year-old. And the way the information began tumbling.

Naveen Kumar Goyat Naveen Kumar Goyat in motion throughout a PKL match. (FILE)

He turned the youngest to attain a Tremendous 10 (a minimum of 10 raid factors in a single match) and later turned the youngest to achieve 500 factors. And now he’s presently on an incredible run of scoring 28 consecutive Tremendous 10s.

Alongside the best way, the nickname ‘Naveen Categorical’ got here into being (the opposite choices have been ‘toofan’ and ‘Krish’ – after the Bollywood superhero flick).

However amidst the glitz and glamour of the league, the gifted raider has not been misplaced to stardom and the newfound fame.

“He’s very grounded. I’ve by no means seen him ever get affected by the stardom,” Thakur, a Padma Shri, says. “I’ve seen it go to so many individuals’s heads, even whether it is for a number of days. However that’s by no means occurred to him. He’s the No 1 raider in India proper now, however together with his mannerisms, you simply can’t really feel it.”

Maybe that’s why Naveen isn’t the primary title that involves thoughts if you focus on the massive PKL stars. There’s no frog-leap celebration on the finish of a profitable raid. No ‘Thigh 5’ after a working hand contact. No accusatory finger-pointing if a defender refuses to simply accept being tagged. He simply walks again into his personal half with the factors and will get able to defend.

He doesn’t even trouble sporting the fastidiously manicured hair that has grow to be a staple for profitable athletes – and even your extraordinary joe. As a substitute, he prefers the messy mop.

“I like being a bit easy. I don’t really feel pushed to do a elaborate haircut and all. I simply do what I like,” he says.

Amidst the brand new riches of the PKL universe, it’s nonetheless the straightforward village life he enjoys.

Easy joys

He’s presently plying his commerce in a posh-Bengaluru resort, the place the league is going down in a bubble. However he’s already labored out what he plans to do as quickly as he will get residence. The identical factor he does each time.

“I’ve a number of shut pals who come over. We swim within the tube properly, climb jaamun bushes and eat the fruit,” he says, laughing as he describes his routine.

“Phir ped ke neeche soo jaate hai. Gaon me mazza hello alag hai.”

The ‘mazza,’ the story goes, was by no means actually kabaddi. In truth, the game was solely used as an avenue to get out of learning.

Rising up in Bhaini Kungar village within the Bhawani district of Haryana, he attended a personal college however loathed his schoolwork.

“I used to be by no means eager about learning. I didn’t like going to highschool in any respect,” he says.

“However in 2010, the federal government college close by began a sports activities program with the profit that athletes wouldn’t want to remain at school for too lengthy. A pal instructed me about it, so I attempted and bought in.”

The situation to getting to remain out of the classroom was to play kabaddi. It was a sport he had by no means performed earlier than, however this was the training he was prepared to do. After which slowly he began to get impressed by the prizes on supply.

“A few of the senior gamers would exit for tournaments and are available again with prizes. Rs 100, 200, 500. Naya lota milta tha kabhi, par inaam toh inaam hota hai.”

It was solely in 2014 although, when he received the ‘Greatest Raider’ award on the Nationwide Faculty Video games that he began to ascertain a profession within the sport. The life he knew until then – the naps beneath the tree, working by means of the household farm, taking care of the three buffalos that he’d climb, pull tails, after which get a hiding from his dad and mom – all modified when he was chosen because the ‘New Younger Participant’ (NYP) for Dabang Delhi in 2018.

Within the highlight

“All children hold an eye fixed over their shoulder to verify if the coach is watching,” says Delhi coach Krishan Kumar Hooda, a Dronacharya Award recipient within the lifetime class. “They’re attempting to impress you so that you just decide them for the PKL. However Naveen was totally different.”

Hooda talks about how the unknown teen turned conspicuous throughout the trials just by staying low-key. However the veteran coach knew he had discovered his subsequent participant.

“He would get on the courtroom, do what he wanted to do, and get off. Nothing fancy, no massive celebrations. However you possibly can see the velocity wherein he moved and the working hand touches have been good,” he provides.

As soon as Naveen made the minimize, he turned the primary individual from his village to grow to be an expert sportsperson. There was a celebration again residence when he returned, however his dad and mom had one other shock in retailer for him.

“They used to look at PKL and noticed the gamers are all well-built. I used to weigh 70 kgs on the time, in order that they determined to double my meals consumption day-after-day,” Naveen says.

Naveen Kumar and Ajay Kumar Naveen Kumar (1st from left) with Ajay Kumar throughout his early days in Kabaddi. Naveen is with Ajay throughout a PKL sport within the second {photograph}.

“I used to have a litre of milk day-after-day, they made it two litres. And so they stuffed me with almonds. I couldn’t deal with it. I did it for 5 days after which instructed my dad and mom I can’t do that anymore. They agreed, however solely after a number of abdomen upsets.”

His father, a bus driver for the Haryana Roadways, too, bought a lift when his supervisor began giving him brief routes as a substitute of long-distance ones.

“The individual in-charge likes to look at my matches, after which he discusses them with my father,” Naveen says.

However when the league began, the teen might now not float beneath the radar.

Within the first season, he top-scored for his group with 177 factors. In 2019 he went as much as 303 – the third-best that season – and single-handedly took Dabang Delhi to the ultimate, shedding to Bengal Warriors.

Presently, in his third time period, he’s scored 108 factors and is the one one to hit three figures. After which there’s the matter of the 28 consecutive Tremendous 10s.

Naveen Kumar Goyat Naveen Kumar Goyat throughout a raid in PKL.

“Each raider has a staple set of strikes. Perhaps they’ll enter from the precise or left on a regular basis. Naveen may be very unpredictable,” says Raju Bhavsar, a gold-medallist from the 1990 Asian Video games.

“It’s tough to learn him as a defender as a result of he modifies his technique mid-raid. He’s a fast participant – that velocity itself will get him out of so many tackles. However now he’s grow to be far more affected person and mature. He is aware of when to make a transfer.”

The younger participant in a group stuffed with adorned veterans – Thakur, Manjeet Chhillar, Sandeep Narwal, Joginder Narwal – stands simply as tall in stature now.

There was a time when Naveen struggled to regulate to the lighting within the glitzy league. Now he’s properly used to the eyes and cameras capturing his each transfer. It’s why, he says, he’s by no means bothered getting an ‘after’ image with Thakur in spite of everything these years later.

“Abhi picture lene ka zaroorat nahi. Bohot skilled cameraman hai jo lete hai.”



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