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Strange picking and dropping of Yuvraj Walmiki

Suhrid Barua
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
718   //    02 Sep 2015, 10:29 IST
Yuvraj Walmiki in action

The selection of 26 probables for the upcoming national camp of the Indian senior men’s hockey team has raised quite a few eyebrows with the exclusion of one name – Yuvraj Walmiki. The Mumbai lad gave a good account of himself at the Hockey World League Semifinals in Brasschaat, Belgium, where he even scored in the team’s 3-0 win over Poland.

So, how come a player who was deemed good enough to play for the country in a matter of few months is suddenly not among the country’s top 26 players. It’s hard to fathom what really goes on behind the scenes as far as team selection is concerned. One can’t help but feel sorry for Yuvraj, who has been ‘consistently subjected to severe humiliation’ by the selectors and team management for reasons best known to them.

A close look at his career graph will show that the selectors and team management have not at all been fair to him – the number of comebacks he has made to the national side will probably makes it convenient for us to term him the ‘Mohinder Amarnath’ of Indian hockey. Yuvraj made his senior international debut at the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy in Ordos, where he scored once in the team’s 5-3 win over Korea in the league phase and later did the heroic act of scoring a crucial goal in the shootout in India’s 4-2 final win over arch-rivals Pakistan.

For someone, who has come up with loads of struggle given his economically disadvantaged family background, one can’t fault Yuvraj he is frustrated at his exclusion from the 26 core probables. Ever since his debut at the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy, Yuvraj continuously played four more tourneys – Three Nation Tourney, Champions Challenge, South Africa Test and the 2012 London Olympic Qualifiers. Injuries played spoilsport to his career as he missed the 2012 London Olympics besides two events in the run to the Olympic owing to a hamstring injury.

Yuvraj marked a return at the 2012 Champions Trophy in Melbourne and even scored in India’s 3-1 over England and was dropped in the same month for the 2012 Asian Champions Trophy at the eleventh hour after being originally picked in the side. He was denied a national berth for the whole of 2013 (missed five tourneys that year) before being picked in the side for the 2014 Hockey World League Final Round in New Delhi, where he scored against Australia.

He was again overlooked for the 2014 World Cup and was picked as an injury cover for Nikkin Thimmaiah. Yuvraj did not play for the remainder of 2014, missing major events like Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Champions Trophy.

Will rethink about my career if I don't earn a place in the Olympics squad : Walmiki

Yuvraj made another comeback for Japan Test series in 2015 and it was after a long time since his debut that he got to play in back-to-back events – playing in the Hockey World League Semifinal Round and was soon axed for the European tour, followed his exclusion from the core 26 probables. The sequence of bringing Yuvraj to the national side for one or two tourneys and then dumping him cannot be a mere coincidence anymore.

“I take a lot of pride in playing for the country. I thought I performed well in the world league in Belgium, although a knee injury hampered my performance in the latter stages of the event. Pretty disappointing not to be among the 26 probables,” says Yuvraj with a tinge of despondence.

The Central Railway forward is not sure about his comeback. “I’m in good form in the domestic circuit. I had a decent senior nationals and in the recent Guru Tegh Bahadur Gold Cup I scored ten goals. I can’t say whether me performing in the domestic tourneys and the 2016 HIL will be enough to force a national comeback,” he quips.

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The nippy forward is keen to play in the Olympics. “It’s a dream to play in the Olympics and I’m upbeat about it. Well, in case I don’t play in the Olympics I will have a rethink on my hockey playing career.”

Indian team coach Roelant Oltmans says Yuvraj can always make a comeback. “At the moment we feel that his performance is not up to the level we want. If he can lift his performance he can come back.” Point noted, but Oltmans refused to say anything on frequent dropping of Yuvraj after one or two tourneys.

Mumbai Hockey Association President Manga Singh Bakshi says Yuvraj has not been considered on injury grounds. “I believe Yuvraj is not in the probables on injury grounds. I will be going to Delhi soon and will take up his exclusion matter with Hockey India officials.”

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