In India, hockey is not as highly publicised as cricket but ironically, it's the publicity aspect that drew Yuvraj Walmiki to the game a decade back. Today, the 21-year-old, who happens to be the only Mumbai player in India's victorious Asian Champions Trophy hockey campaign in Ordos, China has made a name for himself as one of the country's youngest and craftiest forwards. Yuvraj scored three goals in the tournament with one of them coming in the all-important final shoot-out on Sunday. He neatly sidestepped Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Shah to send his team 3-1 up. India eventually prevailed 4-2.
Yuvraj's former club coach and mentor Marzban Patel or Bawa, as he is affectionately known in hockey circles, recalled how the lad took to the game. "It so happened that Yuvraj's best friend Boon D'Souza scored some goals for my team Bombay Republicans and his name and photograph appeared in the newspaper. Yuvraj was so impressed with this that the next day he approached me saying: 'sir, main bhi khel sakta hoon kya? Mera naam bhi paper mein aayega? (Can I play? Will my name also come in the newspaper?)," Patel told MiD DAY yesterday.
The next step; Yuvraj needed to play schools' hockey to stay in touch with the game. But his school -- Our Lady of Dolours -- didn't have a hockey team. A year later however, that changed. "Yuvraj and Boon are the reason Dolours have a hockey team today," said Bawa.
Yuvraj's progress in the game, was hampered yet again, and this time it could well have been for life. "As a young teenager, he had very thin legs and I was worried he may have some deformity. So, I sent him to KEM hospital for a check-up. Thankfully, it was only a case of weak knees and with time he built up some muscle. Today, he can take on any opposition," added Bawa.