Thakulla and Darshan
Mumbai hockey has traditionally contributed a host of players to the national team. However, as things stand currently, goalkeeper Suraj Karkera is the city*s sole representative in the national set-up. This could change soon though, according to recently-appointed Hockey India selector Yuvraj Walmiki.
The 2011 Asian Champions Trophy-winning former India hockey striker has picked not one, but two Mumbai players, who have the potential to break into the Indian team in the near future. "Darshan Gaonkar and Tikaram Thakulla of Champions Training Centre have all the attributes to play for Team India in most probably a year or so if not earlier," Walmiki told mid-day at the MHAL Stadium on Monday evening, moments after CTC beat Union Bank of India 2-1 in the final of the Mumbai Hockey Championships. In a fast-paced final encounter, Devrath Hiray (10th minute) and Manpreet Singh (43rd) scored a goal each for CTC, after Vijender Singh (9th minute) netted the opener for UBI. Gaonkar marshalled the CTC midfield sharply while skipper Thakulla was most dependable in defence and even won the tournament*s Best Full Back award for his effort. Both Gaonkar and Thakulla have emerged from the stables of famed Dronacharya Award-winning coach Marzban *Bawa* Patel*s Bombay Republicans before they moved to CTC recently.
Interestingly, Yuvraj evaluated Gaonkar, 21, and Thakulla, 22, based on Hockey India*s five-point system. "Hockey India have a player rating system of one to five points based on which selectors can effectively assess any player. As per this system, one stands for limited skill observed. Two is some skill observed. Three is competent with sign of potential. Four is very competent and five is excellent. I believe Darshan and Tikaram are somewhere near the three to four-point mark which is good enough to make it to the Indian team from where they can progress further. There are other qualities that are looked at too like speed, endurance, passing, shooting, tackling and receiving, where I also see them fitting in well," added Yuvraj.