The pall of gloom hovering over the South Mumbai sky yesterday got even duller as one entered the humble dwelling of India’s young hockey hero, Yuvraj Walmiki at Marine Drive.
He was kitting up, visibly against his will, for yet another solitary practice session at the nearby Mumbai Hockey Association-Mahindra Stadium. Having been constantly left out of the Indian team with no reason offered, Yuvraj has been training with a bunch of youngsters, but given his immense talent, it’s as good as training alone.
Yuvraj was inexplicably not considered in the list of 48 players called for a month-long national camp that began on July 16 in preparation for the eight-nation Asia Cup (August 24-September 1) in Malaysia — a tournament India have to win to qualify for next year’s World Cup in the Netherlands.
And he doesn’t even know why. “I had to attend my elder brother’s wedding in Aligarh on July 20, so I requested then coach Michael Nobbs and high
performance director Roelant Oltmans during last month’s Europe tour to allow me to attend the first two days of the camp and then leave on July 18 for the wedding and return on July 23. Or, allow me to miss the first week of the camp and join from July 23. Both agreed to this. But I later discovered my name missing from the list of 48 probables for the camp.
I was shocked,” Walmiki told MiD DAY yesterday. His omission is even more surprising considering four of the national team’s forwards — Danish Mujtaba, Akashdeep Singh, SV Sunil and Gurwinder Singh Chandi — are injured. But in the final list of 18, the authorities have preferred to rope in two inexperienced forwards Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah rather than Yuvraj, who rose to prominence scoring against Pakistan in the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy final in China, and has been a prolific striker ever since.
Such has been the 22-year-old striker’s influence in the national team, that every time he’s part of a campaign, Team India end up winning laurels (see box). Yuvraj has tried speaking with the authorities to find out where he is lacking, but he has got no reply. He is now contemplating giving up what he does best. “I honestly feel like giving up hockey. I have struggled so much but to no avail.
“On the personal front, my family continues to live in a shanty nearly two years after Maharashtra chief minister Prithiviraj Chauhan promised to allot me a flat after the Asian Champions Trophy win. And on the professional front, I’m not being picked to play for the nation despite being one of the better players in the country,” a dejected Walmiki said.
Ironically, Walmiki finds more takers abroad. Besides an invitation to play in the highly competitive German hockey league (Bundesliga) for the fourth time on the trot, last week an Australian hockey equipment manufacturing company, Ritual offered him a lucrative four-year stick contract — a first in Indian hockey.
But nothing can take away that blue feeling from Walmiki’s life brought about by the lack of the India blue. “Right now, I don’t even feel like watching the Indian team play the Asia Cup. That’s why I’m planning to leave for Germany to play for Bundesliga club TGF Frankenthal before the Asia Cup begins,” said Walmiki. This stint away from home will hopefully not just help boost the young hockey hero mentally, but also his family financially.
2010 SAF Games (Bangladesh) > Silver
2011 Asian Champions Trophy (China) > Gold
2011 Champions Challenge (SA) > Silver
2011 South Africa Test series > Won 3-2
2012 Olympic Qualifiers (India) > Gold
2012 Champions Trophy (Australia) > Fourth
2013 Azlan Shah > Bronze
2013 Europe Tour (Holland) > Won 2-0
2013 Tri-series (Australia) > Silver
The Mumbai Hockey Association’s astro-turf is all set for a flurry of activity across the next two months. Following today’s Super League final between CR and Indian Navy — the match will conclude last year’s league — MHA will organise the 2013 edition of the Super League with 10 teams — Air India, CR, WR, UBI, Sea View, Customs, SAI, RCF, Indian Navy and ONGC. “We’re planning the Super League from Sept 1-25. We are yet to confirm ONGC’s entry. They will be the only outstation team, but I'm glad to see a club side (Sea View) included,” MHA president Manga Singh Bakshi told MiD DAY yesterday. Close on the heels of the League will be the All India Bombay Gold Cup. “The Gold Cup is planned for October 20 with 8-10 teams in the fray. We’re currently looking for sponsorship,” added Bakshi.
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