Sundergarh's latest gift to Indian hockey: Amit Rohidas looks to impress after being drafted into core group
The district of Sundergarh in Odisha is a gold mine when it comes to producing talent for the Hockey Turf - a gift that keeps on giving. Names like Dilip Tirkey, Lazarus Barla, Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey, Peter Tirkey, William Xalxo, Roshan Minz, Amardeep Ekka, Birendra Ekka, Jyoti Sunita Kullu, Subhadra Pradhan, Anupa and Binita have all come blossomed from the region and that part of the country is not done yet.
In Dipsan Tirkey and Amit Rohidas, the region has again gifted the Indian Hockey team, two stalwart defenders, as the Men in Blue look to grind out a new identity under Dutchman Roelant Oltmans. It won't be easy as recent results have shown but as everyone in the Indian camp should know by now, reaching to the top never was.
A real lynchpin for the Indian side during his junior days, Rohidas was even a part 2013 FIH Junior Men's Hockey World Cup in New Delhi. His impressive performance even garnered him a call to 2014 Hockey Men's World League Final. Things were looking up or so everyone thought.
Things fell away badly after that for the youngster as he had to wait three long years before being called up for the national side. His belief in himself, however, never wavered away - thankfully for him.
In these three years, he sharpened himself, kept working hard and showed up when called upon. His impressive performances in the Hockey India League for his team, the Kalinga Lancers didn't go unnoticed and last month, the strong-minded defender was finally given the call by Roelant Oltmans.
"It's been tough work for me but I am happy now. I have been away from the national side for the last three years; wasn't invited to any camp," who recently came back from a European tour where they defeated the Netherlands twice in as many games. "This time I just knew that I had to make it count."
And he certainly has, his strong showings at the back alongside other youngsters such as Dipsan Tirkey and Varun Kumar has now earned him a place in the core group with less than 40 days left for the Asian Cup.
"I had it in my head that I can still make an impact, make a difference. That's what's got me here and that is what helped me perform on the European tour as well," quips the defender who directs a lot of the praise for his good performance toward two-time Olympic winning coach Moritz Furste.
It was under his tutelage he performed admirably in the Coal India Hockey League.
"The HIL performances have been a real game changer for me. I am more consistent now, I have got more experience and I feel more confident about my game.
"I just always wanted to give it my all. I had that in me and in the HIL, the coach and the captain helped me and I kept my eyes wide open and kept working hard."
The penalty corner conundrum
In Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, India has one one of the most feared duos in the world when it comes to threatening from the penalty corner on paper. And those two words at the end of the previous sentence mean a lot. Sadly, the game of Hockey is not played on a piece of paper.
And on the Hockey Turf India have failed to deliver from these situations in the last two major tournaments. With Rohidas having the ability to inflict damage through these situations, he has another string to his bow with which he can impress the Dutchman at the helm of affairs and push his name into the reckoning
"The penalty corners are something that I am working on. And we already have some really good specialists when it comes to them.
"Yes they have misfired in recent tournaments but that happens once in a while. With so much data available in the game these days, the opposition is meticulously planning for every drag flicker and so do we.
"The team now has Jugraj Singh on board, we are learning and getting better. And hopefully, in days to come, we will be able to deliver when it matters as well from the penalty corners as well," tell the 24-year-old.
Rohidas is an honest man - not only in his views and words but also to himself. And that has what has helped immensely in getting back into the thick of things in the Indian set up. But going forward, with established names such as Kothajit Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet already manning the Indian backline with regularity, it will be a tough job getting his name into the squad.
But nothing for Rohidas has come easy in his life and fight is the only way he knows how to deliver on the Hockey Turf. From playing for kukuda (cock) and khasi (goat) as prizes back in his town of Sundergarh to looking to bring a medal for his country, Rohidas has come a long way and the journey is going to get even tougher.