Walmiki brothers: Youngsters should not be overawed by the occasion

Updated: Nov 19, 2018, 11:24 IST | Ashwin Ferro

City-based hockey brothers Yuvraj and Devindar Walmiki, who made their India debut young, have words of advice for youthful host outfit

Walmiki brothers: Youngsters should not be overawed by the occasion
(Right) Teenager Dilpreet Singh, 19, and Hardik Singh, 20, are the youngest memebers of Team India which has an average age of just 22

Hockey India selectors have reposed faith in youth for the upcoming FIH World Cup in Bhubaneswar (November 28 to December 16), with the average age of the Indian team for the quadrennial competition being just 22.

Dearth of experience
The move has drawn mixed reactions from fans and critics, given the dearth of experience in the 18-member squad. Mumbai's hockey brothers, Yuvraj, 28, and Devindar Walmiki, 26, who made their Sr India debut at 20 and 22 respectively, offered contrasting views too.

Yuvraj and Devindar Walmiki
Yuvraj and Devindar Walmiki

Elder brother Yuvraj made his debut at the 2010 South Asian Games in Bangladesh, but rose to great heights a year later, after scoring in the final shootout against Pakistan to help India win gold in the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) in Ordos, China. "This Indian team are very raw compared to our ACT side which had senior players like Rajpal [Singh], Ignace [Tirkey] and Danish [Mujtaba].

I remember I was very nervous, and Ignace, who played left-half while I played left-outer, told me "Chotu, main tujhe ball doonga, tu khel. Agar mistake kiya toh main tujhe cover karunga [Little fellow, I will put the ball to you and you play without fear. If you make a mistake, I will cover you, don't worry.] I played my heart out and we won the gold medal. I fear what will happen to the youngsters in this team. Who will they look up to for advice or support," Yuvraj told mid-day from Chandigarh, where the brothers are representing Mumbai in the Nehru Cup.

Devindar, however, disagreed. "These players may be young but they have come through the junior ranks, so they should be able to handle the pressure. Besides, they will have the home crowd right behind them too," said attacking midfielder Devindar, who made a smashing debut at 23, in the 2015 Hockey World League Semi-finals, scoring in India's 3-2 win over France.

Cash reward on debut
"I was rewarded Rs 1 lakh for scoring on debut and that motivated me a lot. I scored in the next match [Poland] too. With a little encouragement, from the captain and coaches, our young players will do well at the World Cup," said Devindar.

The brothers agreed on one point though - the enormity of the occasion can be overwhelming. "I remember being overawed by the occasion when I played in the 2014 World Cup at The Hague, [Netherlands], against big names like Australia's Jamie Dwyer and Brent Livermore.These were names I had grown up watching and suddenly I was up against them. That can be nerve-wracking," said Yuvraj.

Devindar added: "Our young players cannot afford to let the occasion get the better of them. Remember, if the crowd is behind you when you are winning, they will abuse you if you lose too."

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