Moving into the second half of VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5, one glaring observation made by fans and pundits alike is how competitive the league has been this year. Simply put, all 12 teams are capable of putting on a show on their day. The well-balanced strength of each side has thus naturally resulted in tight thrillers this season more often than not. With virtually every match going down to the wire, there have been more ties this year than any other season so far – sometimes even two on the same day.

Deepak Hooda, captain of Puneri Paltan, who’ve made a strong start to the season, recently discussed the competitive edge of the league in an exclusive chat with “I think every match played so far has been very close. We see all of a sudden that Jaipur, Delhi and Haryana have started winning, whereas Zone A leaders Gujarat have started losing their matches,” he said, “We have also lost a couple of matches. So, from here on every match will be important for us. We cannot say that we will win against a particular team. If you win a match then the team will grow in confidence. If we can maintain our performances and continue winning, we can make the qualifiers by the time we reach the home leg [in October].”

The 23-year-old all-rounder also spoke of his satisfaction with the balance of his team. “Our defence and offence are both balanced. Both departments have been performing. In defence, we have Sandeep [Narwal], Dharmaraj [Cheralathan], Girish Maruti [Ernak] and Ravi Kumar. Plus, I can also defend. We have some good raiders as well. Our main defender is Ziaur Rahman from Bangladesh. He is performing well for the team,” he said.

Commenting on the influence of their veteran defender Cheralathan, who has previously tasted trophy success with Patna Pirates, Hooda added: “Dharmaraj Cheralathan is a great player. I have seen him playing from the time when I was not playing. The performance goes down sometimes, which happens with every player. He was the captain of Patna Pirates when they won last season. He is important in our team because he is the one who handles the team. I think he will also perform well for the team and I have confidence that we will win playing under his guidance.”