Wednesday, May 22, 2013

European tour vital for World Cup preparations, says Indian junior hockey team captain Amit Rohidas

This piece was published in Sportskeeda 

Bagging the captaincy of a side is always a significant ‘high’ for a player. And for young Indian hockey fullback Amit Rohidas, it isn’t any different. The 19-year-old defender is bracing up to take charge of the Indian junior men’s team for the upcoming European exposure tour which kicks off on Saturday.

Amit is leading a 18-member Indian junior side which would tour three countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The team would play two games against Belgium on May 25 and 26 before heading to the Netherlands where they would feature in three games on May 28, May 29 and June 1 before wrapping up the tour with a match against Germany on June 4.

Understandably, Amit is excited to be leading a bunch of talented youngsters. “Obviously happy to be named the captain of the Indian junior team. There is a lot of responsibility on me to guide my team members and fare well on this European tour. This tour would be vital for our preparations for the Junior World Cup later this year,” Amit said in an exclusive interview.

The demure, soft-spoken fullback is loaded with positive energy after capping off a 21-day training camp in Bengaluru. “All of us worked really hard in the camp. South African Gregg Clark offered his inputs on very focus areas. Clark Sir concentrated on trying out different techniques in defence which we would try to employ during the European tour,” he says.

Having been closely associated with Gregg Clark during the Hero Hockey India League, Amit is full of praise for the Indian junior team chief coach. “I know him well as he was the coach of Ranchi Rhinos for whom I played in the HIL. He treats every player equally and is calm by nature. Even when we are not doing certain things correctly, he would nicely explain to us.”

Son of a farmer, Amit endured the initial struggling days in  Saunamura village where he started playing with the local boys. “Hocket is very popular in my village. I joined the Rourkela-based Panposh Sports Hostel in 2004 and honed my hockey skills and soon started representing the PSH in many district and state-level tournaments,” he recalls.

Amit’s hockey career got a shot in the arm when he was bought by Ranchi Rhinos at a price of $29,000, five times more than his base price of $5,600 at the HIL Players' Auction.

Not just the money, the HIL provided him an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the world’s top hockey players like Moritz Fuertse (Germany), Ashley Jackson (England), Austin Smith (South Africa), Floris Evers (The Netherlands) and Francisco Cortes (Spain). “I was richer with the HIL experience. I’ve evolved as a player. You get to learn so much playing alongside players like Moritz and Jackson.

Not many know that Amit is a decent drag-flicker but hardly got any opportunities during the HIL. “I like to take my drag-flicks but during the HIL guys like Austin Smith and Ashley Jackson were so accurate with their flicks, the team did not feel the need to utilize me. I will surely get my opportunities in future,” he says with a touch of maturity beyond his age.

Amit made his junior international debut in 2009 and also donned the national colours in the 2009 Junior Under-18 Asia Cup hockey tournament held in Myanmar. He represented the Indian junior team in both the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Sultan of Johor Cup. Indian colts had finished runners-up in 2012.

For someone, who came from an economic disadvantaged background , the HIL money ($29,000) was definitely a big motivating factor to excel. “I was happy with whatever I got. I bought a snazzy mobile phone for myself as well as one for my elder brother,” he says coyly.
Amit idolizes former India captain Dilip Tirkey. “Well, I play at the same position and tackle like him. He is from the same village like me. He is my role model which is the case for many other boys in my village. I want to become a proficient  player like Dilip Tirkey," he signs off.
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