Kabaddi, a contact team sport, which is popular in the Indian subcontinent, continues to hold a great place in the hearts of people across India.
A major sport in the Asian games, Kabaddi influenced the inception of a new league in India, the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). The format of the tournament is similar to the Indian Premier League where teams have to qualify for the playoffs before battling it out for the title.
Over the years, PKL has grown to become more popular with the addition of more teams, which in turn added more competition in the league. One such team, Jaipur Pink Panthers, whose docu-series is set to release on Amazon Prime, has had its fair share of struggles in the recent editions of the league.
Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Jaipur Pink Panthers' skipper Deepak Niwas Hooda, shares his team's inspiring journey from nearly going extinct to becoming a major force in the league.
Hooda, who is also the captain of the Indian national kabaddi team, won a gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games. A true veteran of the league, Hooda inspired a major comeback of his team in his first season with Jaipur Pink Panthers.
After a great comeback in the 7th season, Hooda and Co were ready to conquer but, like all sportsmen, were held back due to the novel coronavirus pandemic that brought the entire sporting world to a standstill.
"Since the league is not happening this season due to coronavirus, a lot of damage has been done. As soon as the details for the next season are out, the team will be back on track with massive training sessions," Hooda said.
Speaking about the previous season, Hooda said: "We missed qualifications by a very little margin due to injuries of many key players towards the end. But we trained really hard. After training 2-3 hours in the morning and evening, we were able to make an explosive start in the league."
In the upcoming season, with the right motivation and commitment, Hooda and Co are determined to keep the momentum till the end.
Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, who is also the owner of Jaipur Pink Panthers, has been a rock for his side. Hooda revealed that Abhishek was always on the frontline to motivate the team. "Not only for Pink Panthers but for the entire Kabaddi community, Abhishek sir is a motivator. He can even make an unwell person ready to play with his motivation," Hooda said, adding that Abhishek has been like a friend and family who has always been there to support the team through thick and thin.
Not only Abhishek but, Bollywood's 'Shahenshah' Amitabh Bachchan has been a big motivating factor for Hooda and the team. Recalling the team's interaction with Amitabh, Hooda said: "A legend like Amitabh sir coming to cheer us means a lot for the team. Very few get the chance to see Amitabh sir, and we had the opportunity to interact with him."
"I can say that my life is successful just after meeting the legend," he added.
Hooda does not play to break records; instead, he wants to better himself every season. And, in the 8th edition of the PKL, Jaipur Pink Panthers, led by Hooda, will give their best to lift the trophy for the first time since the inaugural season.