A little known fact about Kings XI Punjab recruit Deepak Hooda is that his initiation to the sport was not as a hard hitting batting all-rounder that we know today, but as a wicketkeeper.

The Rohtak-born cricketer played as a lower-order wicketkeeper batsman for the majority of his school cricket days, adding off-spin to his repertoire only when he advanced to district level cricket.

“I enjoyed bowling even in my early cricketing days, but when I started playing club cricket my coach made me a wicketkeeper batsman. The first two years of my cricket career I played as a ‘keeper-batsman,” starts off Deepak Hooda in an exclusive interview with KXIP.in.

“I got to be in the playing eleven back then just because I agreed to become a wicketkeeper because the senior team did not have anyone for that position. But keeping in the nets all day was difficult for me as a youngster because my knees used to pain a lot,” he added.

Constantly being in a crouched position for his wicketkeeping drills took a toll on Hooda, who took it upon himself to improve his batting skills and punch his weight as a batting all-rounder.

“I began working on my batting because I didn’t want to play as a keeper anymore. Back then, my brother and I used to play together and we used to bowl to each other and help improve the other. I liked to be active on the cricket field, be it bowling, batting or fielding.“

To augment his chances of making it as a cricketer, Hooda then began practicing at a different academy in Gurgaon. At that academy, he was able to make a name for himself as an off-spin bowler and a hard-hitting batsman.

“Friday, Saturday and Sundays I used to practice in Delhi and the other days whenever I wanted to practice extra I used to go to an academy in Gurgaon. Over there I began playing as an off-spinner and batsman, and got selected to play at the district level.

“During one of those district level games, my coach from Delhi saw me and recognised my potential as an all-rounder. Following that, I was able to forgo keeping and focus on my all-round skills,” revealed Deepak Hooda.

And the decision has surely paid off for Hooda, who has pushed his weight around as an all-rounder, playing 68 List A games with an impressive batting average of 38.84 and also has 34 wickets to his name.

His all-round exploits also served him well in the VIVO Indian Premier League, plying his trade for both Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals, and would now look to keep that streak going for Kings XI Punjab.