Over the last month, Sardar Singh and Gurbaj Singh would constantly work on knocking the ball into the opposition D, knowing that Yuvraj Walmiki would stand poised there, ready for the pass. More often than not, the prolific poacher was at the right place at the right time to deflect the shots home.
Along with the two midfield anchors, forwards Simon Child and Akashdeep Singh too worked on the strategy. The blueprint paid off for the Delhi Waveriders, as all of Walmiki’s five field goals proved to be crucial to their success.
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It helped that he was relatively unmarked when receiving the passes. “People say the goals happened because I was unmarked. But these are top quality defenders. I had to work hard to get into a good position, and also lose the defenders at the same time,” says Walmiki.
The 23-year old, who claims that his sense of positioning is his best quality, was keen on using this year’s HIL to prove his call-up to the national camp was justified. But before Walmiki donned India colours at the Hockey World League in January, he was nowhere near the national scene.
Fading out of the scene after the Olympic qualifiers, the Mumbaikar had found himself out of the core group of 48 too. Dropped after India’s dismal run in the Indian team’s test-series against The Netherlands, the Mumbai-lad went into a state of depression and contemplated leaving the sport altogether.
“That was the biggest blunder of my life. It was a terrible mistake and I’m happy that my family, coaches, friends and teammates got me out of it,” he says.
But the nine-month lay-off ignited a fresh commitment to the sport. Depression was soon replaced by determination to get back into the Indian side. “It’s easy getting into the Indian team. But very hard to stay there,” Walmiki declares.
focus on fitness
The immediate focus was on fitness. Walmiki became a regular at the gym and worked on his diet. He was underweight, and he says it was the root cause of him being injury prone.
The hard work paid off for the youngster, who is currently rated as one of the fittest Indian players. He also focused on improving his game. A stint in Germany for second-division side, Frankenthaal HC, laid the base for a new learning experience.
Participation in the HIL gave that experience greater strength. “I got a chance to talk to players like Simon Child and Timothy Drummond. They were always helping me improve my game. Sardar paaji was there too and he has always been very helpful and approachable,” he says.
While the youngster’s poaching skills in front of goal have become well recognised since the HIL, he wants to be seen as someone who is capable of more than feeding off passes. “I don’t want to be a forward who is good at only that. I want to help out in creating attacks, and even earn penalty corners and contribute more to the team,” he explains.
Walmiki declares that his goal is to stay in the Indian team and play in the 2016 Olympics, having missed out on London due to injury. And while his prolific goal-poaching ability has brought him into the limelight, it can be recalled that the Indian team had lacked a finisher at the 2012 Olympics.