Interview with VR Raghunath: "Same bunch of boys playing together for long time helping India"
Vokkaliga Raghunath is a pillar in the Indian defence. The Coorg lad – one of the senior members of the national side – has recharged his batteries with a vacation in Bali after a hectic international calendar. The 27-year-old fullback talks about the Indian team’s progress and much more in an exclusive interview.
Q How did you unwind on your much-deserved break after playing your part in India pulling off a bronze medal in the Hockey World League Final Round in Raipur – the country’s first medal in an FIH sanctioned tourney after a gap of 33 years?
A: It was much welcome break for me – it allowed me to fulfil my personal commitments. I went to Bali, Indonesia for a vacation with my family and really had a good opportunity to unwind.
Q: Tell us a bit about our pulsating win over the Netherlands in the Hockey World League Final Round.
A: It was a humdinger where both teams gave nothing away. We could have won in regulation time but the Dutch fought back and then we held our nerves to win the shootout. Winning a FIH medal after 33 long years is an extremely satisfying feeling.
Q: India have beaten all the top teams in last two years. Do you think the national team has a lot of self-belief now than before?
A: Absolutely! The boys have been together for a long while – we know the mentality of every player and keeping the same bunch of boys together for a long time has really helped the Indian team. We try to help each other (team-mates) on and off the pitch and keep improving. We are all assigned tasks by our coach and we try to carry them out in the best manner possible.
Q: Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh believes you have been a big factor in the Indian defence looking solid in recent times. Your thoughts.
I won’t like to take my credit myself – actually all the team members deserve credit – we play as a unit and try to make the most of each player’s strengths. Our defence has been working hard and all team members have played their role in our defence looking strong. Of course, there is still room for improvement.
Q: You are India’s ace trump card as far as taking drag-flicks from penalty corners is concerned. What is that you are looking to add to your lethal weapon of drag-flick?
A: When you play top-level hockey for ten years there is not much you can add to your drag-flicks except for reading the movements of the goalkeeper and take a call on which side to opt right, left or centre.
Q: You keep employing a deadly slap flick from outside the 25 yards, which has helped India score a lot of deflection goal
A: I have worked hard on this and it is working fine for us. Both myself and Rupinder are muscular and it is important that we use our strengths for the benefit of our team when needed.
Q: You made your senior international debut in the 2005 India-Pakistan Test series and you have completed ten years playing for the country. How does it feel?
A: I take a lot of pride in playing for India. Wearing the Indian jersey is an honour for me and I’m glad that I was able to stay injury-free and perform consistently and play for the country for ten years. I think I have a lot more to contribute to the national side.
Q: How do you assess India’s Olympic chances?
A: The Indian team is heading in the right direction. Wins against top teams have given us a lot of confidence. We still have eight months left for the Rio Olympics and we will leave no stone unturned to corner glory.