Monday, March 31, 2014

Hunger to play for India never died, says Yuvraj Walmiki

This piece was published in

Comebacks are part and parcel of a sportsman’s life. Every comeback opportunity injects a dose of hope in a player to really make it count. And it hasn’t been any different for Indian hockey striker Yuvraj Walmiki, who has acquitted himself quite well ever since staging a return to the national fold in the Hockey World League Final in January this year. And the 2nd Hero Hockey India League gave him a platform to build on that. “I was out of the national side for close to a year. Even when I was out of the side, the hunger in me to play for the country never died. I never let negative things creep into my system as positive energy was running through my body. I kept my chin up, kept working hard and it paid off,” Yuvraj says in an exclusive interview.

The 24-year-old Mumbai lad last played for India in the 2012 FIH Champions Trophy in Melbourne, where India put up an eye-catching performance after the London Olympics blues, reaching the semifinals where they narrowly lost to arch-rivals Pakistan in the bronze medal play-off tie. Yuvraj had a decent tournament, even scoring a goal in India’s 3-1 opening game win over England.

A lot of water has flown under the bridge and the nippy striker was as determined as before, giving his best shot in the domestic tournaments while turning out for Indian Oil on contract in a bid to reclaim his national berth. “I owe a lot to Indian Oil for giving me an opportunity to play for them for a few months. I featured in the Beighton Cup, Lal Bahadur Shastri hockey tourney, Nehru tournament as well as the Mumbai Gold Cup. In fact, I was the top goal-scorer in the Nehru tournament,” he quips.

Yuvraj has since joined Indian Railways. “I’m happy to have joined the Indian Railways as a Junior Ticket Collector – I joined them just before the start of the 2nd HIL. I really look forward to delivering for them whenever I’m free from national duty. Of course, my primary focus is to fare well for the national side.”

The Walmiki ménage must be ‘extra’ elated as his younger brother Devinder also made it to the Indian World Cup probables. Yuvraj doesn’t mind the ‘family’ competition. “I’m happy for him. Although we will be competing for places in the national team, I wish him all luck,” he puts forth his thoughts.

Yuvraj was catapulted into limelight when he put up a dazzling performance in India’s 2011 Asian Champions Trophy glory. For someone, who surmounted numerous hurdles including his economically disadvantaged background, en route to doing what he loves the most – his performance triggered a heap of cash awards and even a promise of a flat promised by the Maharashtra government. “I was promised a flat in September 2011 and I’m yet to get it. I still live in my modest house, which I have renovated a bit opposite to Marine line station. I’m trying my best to contact the concerned government authorities, and keeping my fingers crossed,” he exudes hope.

The youngster, who scored a fine opportunistic goal against Australia during the Hockey World League Final in New Delhi, helping India take a 2-0 lead in the first twenty-odd minutes of play, gushes about playing alongside somebody as talented as Sardar Singh. “I’m really honoured to be playing alongside somebody like Sardar Singh. He is a great player and importantly, a fabulous human being. You keep learning so many things playing with him.”

Yuvraj sees the 2014 World Cup as a huge opportunity for India to show the world that they are surely going up the ladder. “We have got a great coach in Terry Walsh, who knows how to get the best out of the boys. Of course, it all boils down to how a team plays on any given day, we will look to put our best foot forward and make our country proud,” he signs off.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Korea eves beat New Zealand 4-3 in first hockey Test

Korean eves sneaked past New Zealand 4-3 in the first of the two-match hockey Test series at the Hockey Centre at Auckland Grammar School in Mt Eden.A pall of disappointment descended on the Black Sticks camp when experienced playmaker Mi Hyun Park gave Korea the lead.

The hosts hit back in the 28th minute when Gemma Flynn sounded the board off a Sophie Cocks tap-it in a goalmouth melee. Anita Punt triggered more joy among the spectators close to half-time when she converted a penalty corner to ensure her side had the advantage going into the break.

Korea came out firing in the second stanza and evened up the contest through Yun Kyoung Cho. The Kiwis regained the lead through Sian Fremaux before Mi Hyun Park again got into the goal-scoring act in the 55th minute.

With fifteen minutes to go for the final hooter, the match could have gone either way. Jong Eun Kim killed off the contest in the 63rd minute to ensure her side take a 1-0 lead with one Test to go.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Junior Men's Nationals: Services crush Kerala 7-0, romp into semifinals

Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) romped into the semifinals crushing Kerala 7-0 in a Pool C tie of the 4th Hockey India National Junior Men’s ‘B’ Division Championship being played in Chennai.

Ramandeep gave Services an early lead before Navpreet Singh and Naveen Minz struck in a space of three minutes to put them in the driver’s seat. Navpreet literally took the game away from Kerala with two goals in the early stages of the second half and in the process completed a fine hat-trick.

Naveen Minz netted the fifth goal while Anup Minz hammered the final nail in the Kerala coffin with the team’s seventh goal in the 62nd minute. In the same group Bihar clobbered Assam 13-4.

In Pool B matches Bengal Hockey Association walloped Gujarat 13-3, while Andhra Pradesh edged out Vidarbha Hockey 4-3. Steel Plant Sports Board humbled Puducherry 4-0 in Pool A.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Junior Men’s Nationals: Services chalk up 3rd straight win, smash Goa 10-0

Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) chalked up their third straight win, clobbering Goa 10-0 in a Pool C match the 4th Hockey India-organised national junior men’s hockey ‘B’ division championship being played in Chennai.

Jitender gave Services an early lead before Navpreet Singh struck twice in a space of ten minutes to push Goa on the backfoot. Ramandeep scored the fourth goal as they went into half-time with a four-goal cushion.

Ramandeep again got into the goal-scoring act early in the second stanza to press home the advantage before Jitender added his second goal of the day as Services towered over their opponents with a 6-0 scoreline.

Ramandeep soon completed his hat-trick before Services slammed three goals in the final ten minutes of play through Mangra Bhengra, Anup Minj and Navpreet Singh. In another Pool C game, Assam whipped Kerala 6-3.

In Pool A matches Steel Plant Sports Board swamped Hockey Gangpur-Odisha 5-2, while Puducherry crushed Uttarakhand 10-1. Andhra Pradesh drubbed Gujarat 6-0 in a Pool B tie.

Hockey India appoints Jude Felix as national men's team coach

Hockey India has appointed former Indian midfielder Jude Felix as the coach of the Indian men’s hockey team. According to HI, the former playmaker will work closely with current head coach Terry Walsh and High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans.

He will replace Vasudevan Bhaskaran, whose four-month stint ended as he is believed to have cited health reasons for not joining the ongoing camp in New Delhi.

Felix will join the ongoing camp of the senior team at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi on March 27.  The move to induct ‘Indian’ flavor in preparing the Indian team of the 2014 World Cup 2014 should be seen in positive light. The Bangalore-based Felix will be on a three-month probation.

An Arjuna Awardee (1995), Felix was the national team captain from 1993-95. He also led India in the 1994 World Cup and in the 1994 Asian Games. Felix has played more than 250 international matches and represented India in two Olympic Games in 1988 (Korea) and 1992 (Barcelona), two World Cups in 1990 (Pakistan) and 1994 (Sydney), two Asian Games in 1990 (Beijing) and 1994 (Hiroshima) and three Champions Trophy in 1985 (Australia), 1987 (Pakistan) and 1989 (Berlin).

He has also worked as player-cum-coach with Paris-based Racing Club (European league and French League) in 1997 -2000. He also worked as the coach of Dutch U-18 National Team in the Leo Van Der Kar in 1997. Felix has worked as a player cum coach with Singapore Recreation Club from 1995- 1997 and 2001-2011. During this period, he won the Coach of the Year award in 2005 and 2007 from the Singapore Sports Council.

Ric Charlesworth to quit as Australian coach after 2014 Commonwealth Games

Legendary Australian men’s hockey team coach Ric Charlesworth will quit his job after the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 62-year-old, who served as coach of the Kookaburras for six years, had guided them to glory in the 2010 World Cup, 2010 Commonwealth Games titles, besides helping them garner a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics bronze medal as well as four Champions Trophy gold medals.

The celebrated Aussie coach is believed to be keen on spending more time with his family – not allocating adequate time to his family is seen as the main reason for him calling it quits.

Under the tutelage of Charlesworth, Australian men recently occupied the world number one ranking after last achieving the same in 2010. Charlesworth made his international debut in 1972 and was capped 227 times before retiring after the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

He also served as coach of the Australian women's field hockey team from 1993-2000 and was also a technical advisor to Indian hockey team from 2007-08.