As they say, offense wins you games but defense wins you championships, UP Yoddha’s last season’s campaign nearly went all the way to winning the VIVO ProKabaddi 6 title. Though we fell to the eventual runner-up, Gujarat Fortunegiants in what was a gripping qualifier 2, there were many highlights for our Yoddha in this roller-coaster ride. One such highlight that shone throughout the journey was the rise of 21-year-old Nitesh Kumar. The youngster dazzled throughout the season with terrific defensive displays, becoming the first player ever in the history of VIVO ProKabaddi to amass 100 tackle points in one season.

Raised in a family with a history of kabaddi, Nitesh started playing the sport seven years ago, with full-fledged support and necessary encouragement from his father and uncle, who were good players of their time. The work-ethic, attitude towards the sport and the factors such as diet regimes and rest and recovery periods have all been inculcated in him by his father. When asked as to who his inspiration and idol has been, there was little surprise when his answer was his father, Sanjay Kumar, a former cover defender and current coach of the BSF’s Kabaddi team.

Sanjay Kumar passed on the knowledge of kabaddi his fast-learning son, guiding him into the VIVO ProKabaddi and AKFI-launched Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) Programme, where Nitesh further developed as a modern player of the sport. Nitesh eventually learned the various complexities of the dynamic sport, reveling in his stint in the FKH Programme. Following this, he was drafted into the New Young Players’ (NYP) pool for the season 5 auctions and ultimately snapped up by us, where he repaid our faith in him by becoming our best tackle-points scorer with 47 points to his name on his ProKabaddi debut.

Nitesh Kumar surpassed Surender Nada’s record tally of 80 tackle points, reaching the 100 tackle-point mark in qualifier 2, wherein he recorded six successful tackles. This feat comprised impressive statistics of eight super-tackles, eight high-5s and an astonishing average of 4.5 tackle-points per game, as Nitesh was ultimately crowned as the “Defender of the Season”, finishing ahead of Parvesh Bhainswal and Fazel Atrachali.

One of his bests was in match 107 against the Telugu Titans wherein Nitesh produced a terrific defensive performance downing their star-raider, Rahul Chaudhari, brilliantly on five of his raiding occasions with three pincer-like ankle-holds and two strong thigh-holds, recording a high-5 and a convincing victory. Such agile and strong moves of his were on display time and again, when Nitesh downed many more of VIVO ProKabaddi’s star-raiders such as Pardeep Narwal, Siddharth Desai and K Prapanjan.

A dauntless and indomitable Yoddha, Nitesh has already sent waves of thrill across the nation with his brilliant performances last season. With his experience and confidence, Nitesh has every reason to defend the lot many points that our raiders would plunder for us and is expected to put in another stellar performance in what seems to be an exciting and a promising campaign ahead for our Yoddha in the coming season of VIVO ProKabaddi.