Name: Deepak Niwas Hooda
Strengths: Deepak Hooda's obvious strength is his all-round ability. Deepak is equally able in his duties as a raider or a defender. However in season four of the Pro Kabaddi League, Deepak performed well for Puneri Paltan in the do-or-die raids. With India not having any other specific player in the squad for this role, Deepak could end up doing that job for India.
Past record: Part of the gold medal-winning Indian teams at the 2014 Asian Games and 2016 South Asian Games.
Form is temporary, but class is permanent. India's most in-form all-rounder going into the Kabaddi World Cup has both. With 126 raid points in the most recent Pro Kabaddi League season, Deepak achieved something very extraordinary. Despite playing in a team that has finished third for the last two seasons and has specialist raiders like Ajay Thakur, Nitin Tomar and of course Manjeet Chhillar, Deepak Hooda astonishingly managed to get promoted to the team's top raider position. Moreover, he played a key role in making the Pune team's defence impenetrable in the league for the last two seasons.
The 23-year-old has grown in stature with every passing season. With Telugu Titans in the first two seasons, he was a promising youngster, but with Puneri Paltan he moved to a higher level with his progress. Few have been able to outshine Manjeet Chhillar on a kabaddi court but Deepak did it in season four of the PKL. If he continues to blossom at this rate, Deepak Hooda will soon be a household name.
Having faced challenges from a very young age, Deepak has tackled all of them head-on. Hailing from a village in Rohtak district in Haryana, Deepak lost his mother at the young age of three. He grew up shuttling between school and his father's farm, before tragedy struck him again when he was in class 12th. His father passed away leaving the responsibility of his sister and her two kids on his young shoulders.
Many would have given up their passion and education to earn their daily bread, but Deepak wasn't willing to go down that path. "I had seen many players from my village play kabaddi and get a good job. So I continued playing kabaddi. I used to get up at 3 am in the morning travel, 28kms to the training center, come back and then go to a school to teach as that was my only source of income. Then I used to go to the field sometimes before once again rushing to the training center for practice by 6 pm." Deepak revealed to Firstpostin an exclusive interview.
From those testing times, Deepak has come a long way. After spending three years away from education, he went back to college and is currently in the final year of his Bachelor of Arts course.
Deepak's aspirations and dreams did not die despite his difficult childhood. That hunger in him to achieve more still drives him. The all-rounder now wants to represent India for another ten years and win more trophies, starting from the 2016 World Cup in Ahmedabad. His recent form and newly-developed abilities in a 'do-or-die' raid make him a god bet for a starting spot, but the in-form all-rounder will be a lot more than just a do-or-die specialist.
(With inputs from Star Sports press release)