Having never opened in an international game, Deepak Hooda took on the challenges thrown at him and believed himself to be a ‘warrior’ as his heroics with the bat helped India whitewash Ireland 2-0 in the T20 series that concluded on Tuesday.
Faced with the task of tackling the new ball in conditions favourable to bowlers, the big-hitting Deepak Hooda had no other option but to just face the challenges head on when batting at the top of the order.
Riding his powerful striking abilities, Hooda hogged the limelight with a 57-ball 104 in India's second T20 against Ireland here on Tuesday. Earlier in the first T20, it was Deepak Hooda’s 22-ball 47 that helped India win the game.
Batting at number three, Hooda became only the fourth Indian batter to score a century in the shortest format. “I've never opened in an international game, but being a top-order batsman, you have to cope up to the challenges and you don't have any option.
“And if you don't have any option, then why don't you go there like a warrior. That's how I think, and things turned in my way. I'm happy about that,” said Hooda after the match. He was also adjudged the player of the match on Tuesday and also the player of the series.
With young talents bursting at the seams, the 27-year-old all-rounder admitted that it is not easy to get into, and retain, one's place in the Indian team. “To be honest, yes, it is difficult to find a spot in the Indian team and then staying there.
“But at the same time when you're playing in India colours, that time you never think about yourself, you think about the team. That's what I think about on the ground 'How can I contribute to the team in that situation'. I don't think more than that, try to keep things simple.
“Yes, it's a matter of pride for me that I'm playing for India, no matter if I'm scoring or not,” said Hooda. Walking in following the dismissal of opener Ishan Kishan in the third over, Hooda smashed nine boundaries and six sixes to score his maiden T20 century.
“To be honest, the Irish team played really well against us and we enjoyed playing against them. Between the first and second game, I think there was a difference in the pitch. In the first game, the conditions were overcast and the wicket was damp. But today the wicket was very good for batting, as is clear by the way both teams batted. So I felt the wicket was a big factor,” added the Baroda batter.
Hooda also revealed that a mindset change recently has helped him perform better. “Being a cricketer, what I've learnt lately is that you should not think too far ahead. How many ever series, look at it one game at a time. If my work ethic is good, I'm going to be in a good space of mind and I'm going to score, that's my thinking.
“Try to keep it simple, live in the present, play the situation well, and then automatically the outcome will come. Now or later, it will come,” Hooda said. Hooda also praised Hardik Pandya, who led the team in the two-match series.
“Obviously, Hardik is leading very well. He led a new franchise in the IPL and they won the title. I'm really happy for him and the way he's taking responsibility. I'm really proud of him, he's doing very well,” he added.
During the course of the India innings, Hooda was associated in a record-breaking second-wicket partnership of 176 runs with Sanju Samson, who scored a career-best 77 on his return to the team. It is the highest partnership by an India pair for any wicket in the format, surpassing the previous best of 165 by Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in 2017 against Sri Lanka in Indore.
“To be honest, I was coming from a good IPL and wanted to follow the same performance. Happy with my intent. I like playing in that manner (aggressive) and these days I am batting up the order so getting some time.
“Sanju is my childhood friend, always good to bat with him. Thank you to fans, the way they came and supported us,” Hooda said.