Mukesh Kumar - The pearl from Hyderabad
Hyderabad and legacy are synonymous. The City of Pearls has its own share of space in the history books. From kings and artistes, food and culture, to sports and education, the city possessed all, exposing some of the finest talents to the world. A few of those pages in the history book belong to sports. When it comes to sports in Hyderabad, the talk might be about Tulsidas Balram, Abid Ali, Md. Azharuddin, V V S Laxman, Pullela Gopi Chand or the latest crop, Sindhu and Kashyap. But there’s more to be found here. In that metropolitan lies the city’s often forgotten son, for it did produce a passionate, humble and hard working Hockey player who rose to the top all by himself, riding purely on his merit. It was a Thursday, 16th April, 1970, a year which saw India taking silver at the Asian Games and the admittance of an Astro grass based on polyacrylamide structures, when a new star on the Hockey horizon was born in the Secunderabad area. One wouldn’t have imagined that this boy, second of the three brothers born in a Hockey family, named Murali, would one day go on to represent the country in as many as 3 Olympics and more than 300 International matches.
Well, you would have recognized him by now. He goes by the name Mukesh Kumar Nandanoori, notable for his goal assists and for those mind boggling hits to the back of the net. He was not that well performing in academics, but paved his path to success nonetheless. Hockey came naturally to him as early as he picked up the stick in his locality. Things moved quickly in Hockey for Mukesh as he was picked up for the school team to participate in tournaments conducted by the School Games Federation of India (SGFI). By the time he entered Mahbub College, noted for its sports activities, he became well equipped with all the skills and dexterity needed to be implemented on the Hockey field. Thanks to his two year stint at the Lal Bahadur Stadium Sports Hostel in Hyderabad and the coaches there, who implemented a scheduled and systematic training. There, the focus was on the adroitness involved in feeding the midfield and defense, on wreaking havoc in front of the opposition’s net, outclassing the defenders and on those endurance and fitness levels, and shaped him not only into an efficient right winger but also a complete player.
The decade was turning into the 1990’s and Mukesh Kumar had made it to the national camps. Coaches played a pivotal role in his success. On one occasion in the camp, due to a hamstring injury, Mukesh came home mid way. Credits to his coaches who kept faith in him and brought him back to Delhi in order to resume his training. Opportunities knocked at the door for Mukesh who always believed in giving his best performance and worked with the vision of coaches. Soon, Mukesh was taken as a standby for the Junior Hockey World Cup in 1985. His first appearance for Indian junior team was in the vacant right wing position. One diving goal against a Pakistan side under the watchful eyes of the then coaches B P Govinda and M P Ganesh secured him a dream berth in the senior national team. This wily right winger represented India first in the 1989 Asia cup at Delhi and also played in two World cups and two Asian games. What followed, is history. He went on to represent the nation more than 300 times and in three Olympics from 1992 to 2000. One of the highlights of his playing career was in the Poznan Inter–Continental Cup in 1993, central Poland. In a performance where India took Bronze after subduing an Argentinean side 3 – 2, Mukesh Kumar was declared the player of the tournament. He would have been a few millions richer had he taken to cricket, but fortunate are we, as a Hockey stick was chosen over the willow.
The central government acknowledged his contributions to the team, as he was awarded the Arjuna award in 1995 and the Padmashri award in 2002. Success and failure travel parallel to each other. And that’s the way life marches ahead. Be it failing to pass the ball, or scoring at the vital moment of the game, or missing even the easiest of chances, or being sacked as the coach of Junior National team for the 2013 World Cup post retirement, he faced it all by himself, focusing more on the game rather than on materialistic ends. As he contemplates the establishment of a Hockey Academy, and nurture young talent, I hope the government and organizations will stand by him and make it a reality.
Lastly, on an ending note, I would like to wish Mukesh Kumar Nandanoori prosperity even in the times of adversity.