This joke was coming, given Rajasthan Royals' fondness for pushing hitherto unknown talent onto the big stage. When Deepak Hooda made his IPL debut in Royals' opening game, against Kings XI Punjab, social media had a field day with his name, including the south Indian-flavoured 'Deepak who-da?'

By the end of the game, the jokes were replaced by that familiar admiration for another successful Royals discovery. Hooda, who spent Royals' entire 2014 campaign on the bench, scored 30 off 15 balls, and counterattacked with James Faulkner after Royals were reduced to 75 for 5. It was enough for him to be declared the next gun player.

Premature as that might have been, it was as much testimony to the talent radar of Royals as it was to the current trend of snap judgment. But there was more compelling evidence of his potential in the next match, against Delhi Daredevils, where, coming in at No.6, Hooda smashed 54 off 25 balls to help his team complete a tight chase of 185. This, after sending down four overs of offspin for 20 runs.

His 13 runs off the four balls he lasted against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday, including two enormous sixes, took his average in three games to 32.33, scored at 220.45, the highest among his team-mates. With an economy-rate of 4.60, he has been the most miserly of them with the ball, too.

For those familiar with Hooda's career, though, none of this was unexpected. "I am not very surprised by what he is doing right now," B Arun, who was coach of Hooda's India team at the Under-19 World Cup, told ESPNcricinfo.

"He was one of the biggest hitters when we went on the Under-19 tour. One thing he really practised was big hitting. He is a very good bowler as well in limited overs, and was one of the best fielders in the Under-19 World Cup. All combined, he was an exciting all-round package."

Hooda was India's second-highest run-getter at that tournament, scoring 235 from six games at an average of 78.33. With 11 wickets, he was next only to Kuldeep Yadav. Arun, who is now assistant coach with Royal Challengers Bangalore, said he had mentioned Hooda to Royals' mentor Rahul Dravid early last year.

"I had told Rahul about him. We [the Under-19 team] had been on about four tours before that World Cup. I did mention Hooda, so that might have helped. I just mentioned all the names who could come good in T20. Royals must have weighed their combinations before approaching Hooda."

Hooda, according to Arun, is fearless at "any given point." "When challenges are thrown at him, he will be one of the first guys to put his hand up. He would come up with his own ideas and there would be discussions," he said. "He used to work a lot on his yorkers; though he is an off spinner he bowls a pretty good yorker."

Arun said it was too early to predict his future in the longer format. "All we know is he has got the potential. He is a good batsman and it's a question of whether he is technically good, but he has got runs in the four-day format."

Hailing from Haryana, Hooda, the son of a former kabaddi player, relocated to Baroda a few years ago following his father's transfer. Making his first-class debut last season, Hooda had a good run for Baroda in the Ranji Trophy, notching 557 runs, including two hundreds, at 50.63. Munaf Patel, his team-mate there, vouched for his appetite for long-form cricket.

"He isn't someone who is happy with instant success, or taking a short-cut to fame like many youngsters today. If practice is scheduled for an hour, he will spend three hours. He enjoys playing in the IPL but his focus is on playing at the highest level," Munaf told Indian Express.

Munaf also referred to Hooda's tendency to constantly pick the brains of senior cricketers. "Deepak will keep asking you questions. Itna journalist bhi nahi poochte (even a journalist doesn't ask so many questions)."

Hooda apparently maintains a diary, much like Unmukt Chand, the former India Under-19 captain. Arun said he didn't know if Hooda wrote one, but the practice was encouraged within the Under-19 team.

"I tell them the benefits of writing diaries, but I don't force them," Arun said. "I tell them that, If it helps players like Tendulkar, Jordan and Tiger Woods, why shouldn't it help you?"

Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo