On eve of Hockey World League Final in New Delhi, young strikers, who are making a comeback to the Indian team, promise huge success
India’s hockey fortunes have dwindled in the recent past what with the senior team’s poor fifth place show in the Asia Cup (Aug 24-Sept 1, 2013 in Malaysia) and the junior team’s 10th spot at the FIH Junior World Cup (Dec 6-15, 2013 in New Delhi).
Yuvraj Walmiki. Pic/AFP
And with India set to battle it out against the world’s top teams in the Hockey World League (HWL) Final that gets underway at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi today, Sardar Singh & Co have their task cut out.
However, at least two prominent members of the 18-man India squad — both strikers — have a point to prove. Yuvraj Walmiki (23) and Affan Yousuf (19) are making a comeback into the national team after having been left out for two major tournaments.
While Walmiki was not even part of the 48 shortlisted for the Asia Cup camp last year, Affan didn’t figure in the Junior World Cup campaign. Their absence was felt in both tournaments, and aptly the selectors have reposed their faith in the duo with a call-up for the HWL.
Now the duo is eager to live up to the wise mens’ expectations. “I’m grateful to the selectors for having shown faith in me and picking me for the HWL. I feel it’s my duty now to deliver the goods in the form of goals and ensure we win maximum matches here.
I have scored some good goals in practice, now I hope to convert that form in matches. In fact, I consider this to be my last chance to cement my place in the Indian team,” Walmiki told MiD DAY from New Delhi on the eve of India’s HWL opener against World No 4 England.
Affan felt it was time for him to make amends on missing out on the Junior World Cup in his own backyard. “The Junior World Cup comes once in four years and I missed out on a great opportunity to play at home, but I’m not thinking too much about that.
My focus is the HWL and I hope I can be among the goals and ensure we enter the knockout stage,” said Yousuf, who was adjudged the best player of the 3rd Hockey India Senior National Championships in Pune last August.
The duo hailed new coach Terry Walsh for his personal equation with the players. “Coach Walsh has been very helpful not just to me but to all the players in this team. He comes up to each and every player and discusses his progress or problems,” said Walmiki.
“We are ready to give it our best in today’s game against England,” said Yousuf. At HWL, India are placed in Pool A alongside Germany, New Zealand and England, while Pool B comprises Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and Argentina.