New Delhi: The young Indian striker Yuvraj Walmiki has put the disappointment of missing the London Olympics behind him to storm back into the blue uniform for the Champions Trophy in Australia.
In a team where seven of the experience legs have been shown the door, Walmiki comes back as a breath of fresh air to fulfil a promise he made before an unfortunate hamstring injury put him out of contention for the London Olympics.
Talking to IBNLive, a candid Walmiki opened up on a variety of issues, including his stints with the Bundesliga and the desire to captain India.
How does it feel to be back in the team after the Olympics heartbreak?
It was hard to swallow that I couldn't make it to the Olympics. As a child when I started playing hockey, I always dreamt of playing the Olympics. Nevertheless, I knew there's always a second chance and a long way to go. I will work harder and try to make it into the 2016 Rio Olympics squad.
How fit do you feel after recovering from the injury?
I'm totally fit and in a good swing as I've fully recovered from the hamstring injury.
Tell us something about your stint in the German league? How has it helped you?
It's always great to play in the German Bundesliga. This was my third year I played for the team TGF. As I get to learn more defence, it helps me become a complete player, because in today's Hockey a forward has to learn to re-tackle and help the defence. And also this time I was the highest scorer for the team, scoring 5 goals in 9 matches playing as a mid-fielder.
Now that your have played in Germany, what difference do you notice between the leagues in Europe and India?
I think the league played in Germany is of much higher standard. The main thing I saw in Germany was that even a school team plays the same pattern of hockey which the German national team plays. So when the kids start playing hockey, they are taught to play tough and much more defensive hockey, and till the time they retire, they end up playing the same pattern of hockey. I think India should adopt the same system. If we are good in attacking, then from childhood, when a kid starts playing hockey, he should [be taught to] play attacking hockey and end up doing that. If we adopt that system, I bet in another 10 years India will be standing at the podium in Olympics and World Cup. But for the that [to happen], the main thing is that the thinking of coaches all over India should be the same – in school, college, university, domestic. When we succeed in doing this, we will have much better result in the international arena. Also talent scouting should be done in cities as well as rural areas.
It's an almost revamped attacking line now with Shivendra and Tushar not there. How do you view that big change?
It's really a good opportunity for youngsters like us. I hope to make it count and cement my place in the team by performing well. And as you know, it's a young team that will compete in Australia. As of now, the forward line combination is doing well in training. Hope things go as planned.
How do you rate Thimmaiah and Akashdeep in the forward line?
Pretty good players. Talented, hardworking & future [of India]. Big tournament like this will help them.
Have you set any goals for yourself after being selected for the Champions Trophy?
To be consistent in every game, score as many [goals as] I can, implementing whatever I learned in Germany and last but not the least, remain injury free.
What are your expectations with the two series (Lanco Super Series and Champions Trophy) in Australia?
It's going to be tough competition as we play the top 8 nations. But it's the right time to perform well and get a good result. Much will depend on our forward line. We have to convert even the 50:50 chances into a goal or penalty corner. For that, we have to be mentally prepared. Hope for the best.
Where do you see yourself in say five years' time from now?
My dream is to become captain of the Indian team and to be fit and consistent in every tournament. I want to play the best quality hockey and be part of the Indian team with many wins and medals. I want to see hockey revive older days. When I get selected in the team wearing the India colours, I believe in only one thing: Tricolour in the front matters more than my name on the back.