Early loss of parents didn’t allow Deepak Hooda to complete his education and kabaddi was merely a sport to secure a job and earn bread. In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, Hooda, known for his raiding skills, reveals the tough days and how the journey has been so far. “Chaar saala ka tha jab maa guzar gai aur phir pita ji ke dihant k baad sab kuch mere upar aagaya,” said Hooda who wasn’t able to complete his education.
Kabaddi, however, was his saviour and a stint in the Pro Kabaddi League did wonders to his life on and off the court. Brother to two sisters, he played local tournaments to earn money and fulfilled their requirements. “Playing local tournaments was a way to earn money but over a period of time, I started developing an interest of making it into the national team.”
Hailing from Rohtak district in Haryana, he believes there has been a recent shift from wrestling and boxing to Kabaddi in his village. “When I started playing Kabaddi, at the age of 16, there were only five or six players who had an interest in the sport. But now, there is a huge turnover, at least 100 kids daily play Kabaddi.”
Recognition didn’t come even after breaking into the national side. It was only after the introduction of the Pro Kabaddi League that he became a household name. “After the introduction of Pro Kabaddi league, there is no change in my priorities. Playing for the country continues to be my priority. However, PKL has given us fame, improved our financial conditions and more importantly, it has given us respect. It has also improved my game,” said Deepak.
23-year-old Hooda is thrilled to lead the side in the upcoming edition and said it will be an exciting task.
“I’m playing my third season with the Pune team and they also showed confidence in me by retaining me. It means a lot and I am looking forward to giving my 100%. Playing as a player and leading a team is a completely different job. The captain has to play his own game and also guide other members according to the situations,” said Deepak who will lead Puneri Paltan in this edition.
“Having senior players like Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Rajesh Mondal, Girish Maruti Ernak and Sandeep Narwal, there is no sign of misunderstanding between us. We have been playing together. Cheralathan has helped me a lot ever since I made it into the national team. He always backs youngsters. He is someone who can play at any position and deliver the results. Thus I am confident that our team can deliver and give a better performance this season,” added Deepak.
With 108 points in the fourth season, Deepak was the second most successful raider of the tournament, only two points behind Telugu Titans’ Rahul Chaudhari.
The newly-appointed captain is confident and believes the current lot of defenders have what it takes to put up a great show and challenge the leading teams in the tournament. “We have a decent squad and I am confident enough that our defenders will put up a great show,” he said.
With four news teams and a longer season, Hooda believes physical fitness will be a key feature to deliver. “To play such a long season, fitness is very important. It’s a contact sport and each time you are on the mat, you are expected to get injured. You need to be mentally stronger too as you just can’t use your physical strength to win the game. The more you physically fit, the better performance you give,” he concluded.