The 26-year-old all-rounder recently received the prestigious Arjuna Award.

Deepak Niwas Hooda is a renowned, celebrated name in the Indian kabaddi circuit. He leads Jaipur Pink Panthers in the Pro Kabaddi League and also captained the national team to victory in the South Asian Games last year.

He believes that motivating, encouraging and uplifting the spirits of fellow players is one of the foremost responsibilities of a skipper. “When a team loses, it is very important for a captain to motivate the players. I have learnt the art of improving the morale of a side from legends like Anup Kumar and Ajay Thakur. Moreover, I have gained a considerable amount of experience by captaining the PKL,” stated Deepak Hooda during PKL’s Instagram Live chat show ‘Beyond the mat’.

However, the former Telugu Titans player has done the hard yards earlier on in his life to reach at the apex of the sport in the country. The raider recollected, “My father passed away when I was in class 12th, whereas my mother had already breathed her last earlier. My sister stayed with her two children at home, so the entire responsibility of nurturing the family laid on me. I left my studies and took up a job to pursue kabaddi. But, my passion to represent the country grew immensely post that and I did achieve that eventually.”

Apparently, Ajay Thakur is a dear friend of Hooda. The player from Haryana reflected on the bond that he shares with his senior teammate and stated, “I have learnt a lot from him. Ajay is a brilliant person. We played together for Air India for several years and he has influenced me a lot.”

Deepak Hooda has been turning up in the PKL ever since the inaugural year in 2014. He has made a whopping 123 appearances in the league so far and has witnessed the competition and the various players involved in it through close quarters. He was asked to draw out a dream kabaddi team and he replied, “Ravinder Pahal, Surender Nada, Parvesh Bhainswal, Sunil Kumar, Naveen Kumar and Pawan Sehrawat will be a part of my team. Fazal Atrachali has been the best international player in the league.”

Given his vast experience in the league, He has naturally encountered numerous difficult, challenging matches and moments in a game. Putting light on a few such instances, the player mentioned, “In the fourth season, the contests against Bengaluru Bulls and Dabang Delhi were the toughest in my entire career. We managed to emerge victorious in both these games.”

“Other than these, we had a difficult game in the fifth season too whereas facing U Mumba in the sixth campaign was quite gruelling faced stern matches against the likes of Gujarat Fortunegiants and Tamil Thalaivas in the seventh season.”

Thereafter, Deepak Hooda pondered a bit upon his personal life. He believes that he would have been a teacher if not for a professional kabaddi player. Furthermore, he idolizes Cristiano Ronaldo and claims that Pardeep Narwal’s ‘dubki’ is his most favourite raiding move.

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His career path is an encouraging case study for scores of aspiring sportspeople. He rose from a very humble background to lead the national team and is yet to embark on the peak years of his playing days.

Asked to offer some advice to budding athletes, the former Puneri Paltan player concluded, “It is important to never give up in life. A player faces multiple challenging phases in his career, but it is crucial to maintain perseverance. I came across many such moments too but I never lost hope and continued working hard. That is the reason I am at this stage currently.”