Mumbai hockey on success path: Yuvraj Walmiki
With three players in the Junior national setup and two in the senior team, India striker Yuvraj Walmiki says grass is green for city hockey
India hockey striker Yuvraj Walmiki has nothing to do with the upcoming Mumbai Hockey Association elections (August 12). In fact, surprisingly, he does not even hold a membership with the city hockey's ruling body.
India striker Yuvraj Walmiki during a training session at the MHA Stadium in Churchgate
Probably that's the reason he comes up with one of the most neutral opinions in the run-up to the elections, where the incumbent body led by president Manga Singh Bakshi and secretary Ram Singh Rathore is being challenged by a rival faction led by Olympians Gurbax Singh Grewal, Joaquim Carvalho and Merwyn Fernandis among others.
"To me, as a player, it does not matter who wins or loses in this election.
I'm not in support of the ruling body or against the Olympians. What matters to me is that Mumbai hockey does well and to be honest, the current body has not done a bad job," Walmiki, who suffered an injury during India's recent 2-2 draw with Pakistan in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Belgium and so missed out on the national team's current Europe tour (France & Spain), told mid-day yesterday.
Mumbai hockey has always contributed handsomely to the national setup in the past. However, there was a lull in between with Yuvraj being the only Mumbai player in Team India. Currently though, Mumbai's representation in the national team is on the rise and Yuvraj attributes this to the MHA.
Three cheers for city hockey: Mumbai lads Suraj Karkera (left), Karan Thakur and Rajat Sharma (right) are in the India U-21 probables for the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia
"The Bombay Republicans team is Mumbai hockey's nursery and the current MHA body has been very kind to the Republicans boys by offering them free access to the turf which otherwise costs R2000 to R3000 per hour. Over the last couple of years, I've been training with this group of 20-25 youngsters, between 15-25 years of age at the city turf for free, four times a week, and the results are there for all to see.
Three boys — goalkeepers Suraj Karkera, Karan Thakur and forward Rajat Sharma — are in the India U-21 probables for the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia. Besides, Devinder (Yuvraj's younger brother) also got his India jersey this year. So many Mumbai boys would not have been part of Team India if the game was not being run properly in the city."
Finally, the 25-year-old is hopeful that the rival faction can work in tandem with the ruling MHA body. "It would be great to see the Olympians also join in the administrative set-up as their knowledge of the game is unparalleled. They can help restore Mumbai hockey's glory years."