From the hard-working part-time teacher to the Kabbadi professional – the sensational athlete in the form of Deepak Hooda has shown a remarkable improvement – to write the script in his way- in the energy-sapping game after failing to complete his education due to early loss of his parents back home.
Following the fame, the promising raider Hooda further sheds light on his hard-fought career while revealing his secret to success has been thorough professionalism and discipline after being introduced to the Pro Kabbadi League some four years back (2014), as he eventually believes his PKL outfit Puneri Paltan has done well in the past couple of seasons.
Prolific at the raiding skills, the 23-year-old Hooda hails from the Rohtak district of Haryana state which further saw him facing the ordeals in life, as the initial struggle made him dedicated towards such sport which taught him a lot through and through.
While defying all the odds to eye glory, Hooda has the longstanding aim to represent India in the Olympics and set the horizon on to win the gold for the national side.
Following the mixed emotions, Hooda — the brother of two sisters worked hard to stay fit which further saw him taking the Kabbadi seriously way back in 2009, as he believes the captaincy has shaped him well and he is cherishing the responsibility after coming into the limelight.
Swift in action, Hooda, who’s the hot property of the Pro Kabbadi League which subsequently saw him making the dream debut for Telugu Titans during the first edition of the competition in 2014.
Banking on his strength, Hooda has recently been the part of 2017 Asian Kabaddi Championship where India thumps Pakistan by 36-22 in Iran and he has set his complete focus on the Asian Games slated for 2018.
Interestingly, Hooda fetched the second highest bidding in 2014 during the Pro Kabaddi League when Telugu Titans availed his services in INR 12.6 lakh.
Hooda made his national debut in the South Asian Games for 2016 held in Guwahati.
Knitting the dream of featuring in the Kabaddi world, Hooda served as a teacher to earn the livelihood for his family after his father Ram Nivas passed away.
At the tender age of four, now, the household name Hooda witnessed his mother passed away, but that did not stop him from the dream of carving a niche out of Kabaddi career.
In 2016, Hooda joined Puneri Paltan which saw his all-round performances strengthen one of the top franchises.
The Puneri Paltan captain and star all-rounder Hooda spoke to Sportzwiki, in a freewheeling chat about his career while giving his insights about the rigorous preparations and the impact of the Kabaddi as a sport in his personal and professional life.
Here are the excerpts from an interview with Deepak Hooda:
SW: First of all congratulations Deepak on winning Asian Kabaddi Championship. Now to begin; has the feeling sunk in yet?
DH: Our joy knew no bounds when we won the finale against Pakistan. It is the dream of every Indian player to represent the country on an international platform and win gold. I am pleased to have made India proud and hope to do so again in the 2018 Asian Games.
SW: India made light-work of her opponents in the semi-final and final beating South Korea and Pakistan respectively. Did you think it would be that easy? Describe in your words how the knock-out games played out for you?
DH: One should never underestimate their opponents, especially in a game like Kabaddi where one moment can change the entire match. We worked hard and trained hard equally before all our matches. We carefully studied our opponents and devised our strategy accordingly.
India was always a strong contender for the trophy. We defeated every team in our group by a huge margin and reached the finals effortlessly.
It was a smooth journey through the knock-outs, and personally, I got to know how the players from other countries play and understood their strengths and weaknesses which will help me and the Indian squad in 2018 Asian Games.
SW: Were you disappointed that after a grand success of PKL 2017, an international tournament of a stature like Asian Championship received relatively less coverage? If yes, what it is down to?
DH: Pro Kabaddi League has popularized Kabaddi in India so much that PKL season 5 finale was the most watched non-cricketing event by Indians.
This shows that Indians love Kabaddi and want to watch it. It would have promoted the game more if it would have been broadcasted on TV.
It means a lot to us if we know people back home are seeing us play on an international level and it gives us that extra confidence.
We hope that in future the authorities understand our emotions and help take Kabaddi forward in India.
SW: Now on to your Puneri Paltan days, how you rate this season with Paltan? Also, how was your experience of captaining them for the first time?
DH: Puneri Paltan as a team performed very well in season 5. Third time in a row our team qualified for the playoffs. Till last season we had never won a match against U Mumba, and this year we managed to defeat them in all three Maharashtra Derby matches.
It was challenging to lead a team and also to have you’re ’A’ game on the mat. I understood that captainship was not just a post but an important responsibility.
My game has evolved and the practice and coaching has helped me focus and play the game with a calm mind. Captainship has helped me to make the right choices at the right time in crux situations.
SW: You crossed 400-points mark in season 5 and you are the only player from the Paltan to do so. Is your team heavily reliant on you offensively or this was a team strategy? Do you enjoy shouldering this responsibility?
DH: The team was not heavily reliant on me for offence. We had really good raiders like Rajesh Mondal, Sandeep Narwal, Akshay Jadhav, Monu, and Suresh, who scored points for us during critical moments and helped us win a lot of matches. It was our strategy to rotate/substitute raiders, who would score raid points whilst maintaining a strong defense which would stop the opponents from scoring.
Yes, I enjoy shouldering the responsibility of the captain and ensure that the team sticks together even off the mat and I always have the guidance of senior players in our team like Dharmaraj Cheralathan.
SW: I have a stat for you – Deepak had the maximum do or die raid points in season 5. So can you tell me how it is different than a normal raid? Also, you seem to perform well under do or die situations. How has this come about?
DH: Do-or-die raid is the raid after two consecutive empty raids. In a do-or-die raid, the raider has to score at least one point else he/she would be declared out.
As far as performance under pressure is concerned, Kabaddi is a fast-paced game, wherein a fraction of a second the momentum can completely shift either in your favor or in your opponent’s favour.
Therefore, it is important for all Kabaddi players to be alert at all times and play calmly. I used to do Yoga before matches, which helped me a lot to play with composure during do-or-die situations.
SW: You are one of the fittest players going around in Pro-Kabaddi. What’s the secret of your fitness? Can you share your diet plan?
DH: The secret to my fitness is discipline. I strongly believe that without a set routine one cannot stay fit. I religiously follow my fitness routine and diet plan even during offseason.
Fitness has become an integral part of my life, if I don’t work out even for a day I feel I have missed something huge. One other important factor is self-control. There will be times when you would want to give in to the temptations and cheat, but not doing so will take you a long way.
My diet plan is well balanced with proteins, carbs, minerals, and vitamins. My favorite is milk with almonds. I also have sugar free orange and pineapple juice for the vitamins.
SW: Pune has managed to reach playoffs for three consecutive seasons now. Can it go a step further and win the sixth season? Also, the reason why you think it should win?
DH: The team has a lot of a potential and the management is also very supportive. Puneri Paltan was one of the most well-balanced teams in season 5. We had the perfect mix of experienced players and young talent. Due to a few miscalculations and last minute errors, we lost to Patna Pirates in the playoffs, but next season we will be back with a bang.
SW: To sum-up: What’s your aim for Pune and India?
DH: I want Kabaddi to be included in Olympics, be a part of the Olympics Indian Kabaddi squad and win gold.