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Behind the scenes, Hooda undergoes batting transformation

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The year 2021 was not the best of years for Deepak Hooda. Early in January, Hooda got into a verbal altercation with Baroda captain Krunal Pandya, which led to his suspension from domestic cricket for the entire season. Apart from the ban that the Baroda Cricket Association handed him, Hooda also did not have a good IPL season. Batting in the middle order for Punjab Kings, mostly at No. 5 or No. 6, Hooda aggregated only 160 runs in 11 innings, which came at an average of 16. A poor IPL season and with no cricket that season, Hooda had a point to prove – that he belonged at the big stage.

Fast forward to 2022 and things have been on an upswing as far as Hooda’s cricket is concerned. On the back of a successful Syed Mushtaq Ali campaign for Rajasthan, Hooda got his break with the Indian white ball sides, having been part of the squad a few years earlier but not getting the chance to play. He was picked up by Lucknow Super Giants for a price of INR. 5.75 Crore, has had his best IPL season, scoring more than 400 runs and being amongst the highest scorers. “This is a good feeling and after a long time I’m getting this feeling. I hope to continue this and do even better,” Hooda says in chat with Cricbuzz, when asked about his current form.

But what led to the immense success that Hooda has been experiencing in recent times, right from debuting for India to being a key batter in the LSG line up? It all has to do with the hard work behind the scenes, says Nikhil Doru, the head coach of the Rajasthan team, who has been a key figure in Hooda’s transformation. Nikhil also points out some technical adjustments that have allowed Hooda to become even more effective with the bat. Considered a leg-side player earlier, Hooda went about changing that with a lot of work in the nets, with the Rajasthan coach giving him assistance.

“Earlier, he used to be strong on the legside while his offside play was slightly weak. This year when he came to Rajasthan, he worked on it. He started playing more shots to the offside, hitting over covers, hitting over mid-off. He told me, ‘I’ve been playing IPL for many years and everyone knows that I play well on the legside’. So he improved his off-side game, even hitting sixes over covers in the IPL. He plays the sweep, the reverse-sweep, he has become a 360-degree player now. He has even worked on his initial movement. His stance was a bit open towards the leg side. Now, his feet movement is in good synchronisation,” says the Rajasthan coach.

Apart from the extra net sessions and extra time spent in the nets, Hooda also used to practice at home and send those videos to the coach, while Nikhil used to give him throwdowns wherever and whenever possible. “When he came to Rajasthan his mindset, according to me, was that he wanted to play for India, he wanted to prove something. The first day when he arrived, we completed the net session in the morning and he came to me and asked for extra practice in the evening. He always used to practice extra. Whenever we had net sessions, he used to bat for the longest time.”

“His practice, his hard work, and his attitude,” are the main reasons for Hooda being an improved cricketer compared to the past years, Nikhil points out. “Extra practice, extra sessions, he even used to practice at home and send me videos of those. Even when we were in quarantine, he used to take me to the garden outside the gym and I used to give him throwdowns. No other player in our team practised the way he did. He had a different mindset and attitude.”

One of the main reasons for Hooda’s numbers not being on the higher side is that he used to bat in middle-order positions, with his role mostly consigned to that of a finisher. But with LSG, he’s got to bat at No. 4, initially doing well there, before being promoted to No. 3 where he’s fit in perfectly. Among the batters from No. 3 to No. 7 at LSG, Hooda has scored four of the six half-centuries and has contributed close to 40 per cent of the runs that have come from those positions.

Hooda had also batted at No. 4 for Rajasthan in the last edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring four half-centuries and ending the tournament as the second highest run-getter, with 294 runs at an average of 73.50 and a strike rate of 148.44. Soon after his move to Rajasthan, Hooda was keen to bat higher up, But the head coach told him that he wanted him as a finisher for the side. However, Hooda made a promise and there has been no turning back since.

“He probably had the same problem in Baroda, he wanted to play up the order (but they didn’t agree),” says Nikhil. “Our problem in the last few years, despite qualifying, we did not have good finishers. So I told him that he will have to play at No. 5 or 6 to finish games for us. He told me that he wanted to play at No. 4 and promised me that he would also finish the games. We needed 60 runs in the last six overs (against Jharkhand) and he finished the game for us with two overs to spare (batting at No. 4 and scoring an unbeaten 75 off 39) . He told me that he fulfilled his promise. We persisted with Hooda at No. 4. Not only did he guide the innings, he also finished most of the games. He played both roles efficiently.”

“To be honest, I have the confidence of batting in any position, I have developed a lot of skills and capabilities as a batsman. I have that self belief and I feel like I’m a complete batsman and a complete allrounder. I’m getting the chance to bat up the order and the way I’ve been playing for the past one and a half years, (it has given me a lot of confidence). I always play according to the situation and what the team requires. I have played with a lot of intent and I feel this was the thing that was missing in the past season. I have a better understanding of the game and I understand the situations better. I look at the game from these viewpoints and look to play with a good intent,” adds Hooda.

Hooda made his IPL debut back in 2015, bagging a Man of the Match award in just his second game, playing for Rajasthan Royals. But his numbers were rather underwhelming as the years went on and Hooda went from one franchise to another. The 160 runs that he scored for Punjab Kings in 2021 was the most for him in an IPL season before 2022. His sequence in the previous seven years read: 2015 – 151 runs in 14 matches @ 16.77; 2016 – 144 runs in 17 matches @ 10.20; 2017 – 78 runs in 10 matches @ 26.00; 2018 – 87 runs in 9 matches @ 21.75; 2019 – 64 runs in @ 10.66; 2020 – 101 runs in 7 matches @ 101.00.

“I made my debut at the age of 20. To be honest, it has been a very up and down journey. As a youngster, I learnt a lot of things and right now I’m doing well and feeling blessed because I learnt a lot in that duration,” Hooda says. “I have a much better understanding of the game now and have worked a lot on the mental aspect of the game. Being a cricketer, I have worked a lot on my work ethics and have followed that with a lot of discipline. So I have also improved as a person.”

“Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, the Punjab team and LSG, I’ve experienced different environments in all the four teams and I’ve learnt something or the other from each team. My journey started with Rajasthan Royals. I didn’t play in my first season but played in the second. I got the Man of the Match award in my second game. As a youngster I was very fearless. I went to Hyderabad and we became champions. Being a youngster, I learnt a lot of things there. Batting in the lower order, playing with the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 allrounders – [Mohammad] Nabi and Shakib [Al Hasan], playing in between them in the No. 6 and No. 7 positions, I learnt how to finish games. With Punjab, my performances were a bit below par. But what I learnt from the Punjab team was how to fight back.

“Now with LSG, it’s a very good franchise and the work ethics here are very good. We have a good mentor and good coaches. The trust in my game has grown because I have been involved in good conversations day in and out, which gives you confidence,” says Hooda, describing his IPL journey.


There has been a sense of calmness and quiet confidence whenever Hooda has walked out to bat for LSG in this IPL. As much as it has to do with the belief that LSG has on the 27-year-old, Hooda also brings the experience of captaining Rajasthan in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The arrival of Hooda to the Rajasthan team, according to Nikhil, also came as a big boost for the batters in the side who were able to gain plenty of inputs from the former Baroda cricketer.

“If you look at Rajasthan, many of our bowlers have played for India but we did not have any batsman playing for India. But with his arrival our batting has improved a lot. We used to win matches with our bowling but he came to the team and showed us how to win matches with the match. He even captained the team well in the one-day matches. His arrival gave the batsmen confidence, they showed improvement with Deepak Hooda around. We got good results in the Vijay Hazare, four of our batsmen scored centuries, we even qualified. I have the feeling if he plays for Rajasthan for three-four years, we will start producing batsmen who will play for India,” Nikhil says with hope in his voice, adding that Hooda’s confidence has grown a lot in the past few months.

“Whenever he goes out to bat, it looks like he’s got extra time. His confidence was quite high when he did well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali. It never looked like he needed to play a few balls to get set. He looked quite set from the first ball. Always positive from ball one and he also has the good sense of knowing which bowler to attack.”

Despite a highly successful season, both in the IPL and domestic cricket, Hooda does not care much about the numbers and wants the attention to remain on his process. “I haven’t changed much with my batting. I’m used to playing at No. 3 or No. 4 or No. 5 in domestic cricket and I’m used to different situations. More than my numbers in this IPL, I feel I have much more clarity in the way I play the game and a better understanding. Numbers do not matter as much as the mindset. I always try to keep my game simple. I have stuck to my process that I’ve been doing for the past three-four years. I feel it is because of this process that I’m having a good IPL season and I want to continue backing this.”

Hooda will be a key player as LSG look to go the distance, with playoffs journey starting with the eliminator game against Royal Challengers Bangalore. But beyond the IPL, he will also have his eyes set on the T20I series against South Africa, while a tour to Ireland and England might also be on the cards should Hooda’s rejuvenated voyage continue.

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