Devinder Walmiki is in the process of unlearning all that he has learnt so far in his short career. And the task isn’t easy. Striving for a place in the squad for the junior World Cup later this year,the half-back from Mumbai is leaving nothing to chance.
Walmiki is currently a part of the core group of junior players,who are currently attending a World Cup preparatory camp held at the SAI South Centre. Under coaches Gregg Clark and Baljit Saini,the 48 probables are undergoing rigorous training for the World Cup which will be held in New Delhi from December 6 to 15. And if the young half-back is to be believed,then the team is going through a complete make over under the two experienced coaches.
More so,Clark. The former coach of the South African national team,Clark’s presence has enthused the young players. His ideas and philosophies have intrigued the youngsters and now they are hoping to implement those ideas on the field. Training under Gregg has been quite different. The way he approaches the game is so different from what we are used to here. It’s refreshing in a way. But then,you have to learn everything all over again, Walmiki,who is the only player from Mumbai in the camp,said.
Clark has been training the players in such a way that they can make a seamless transition into playing the modern style of hockey one that calls for slick passing,crisp finishing and high level of fitness. While the Indians have improved by several folds in the third criteria,they certainly have a lot of ground to cover in areas such as passing and finishing.
Walmiki said Clark and Saini are teaching the basics all over again besides the new style of play,which involves a lot of off-the-ball running. We have a tendency of holding onto the ball for quite some time. That gives the opponents enough time to tackle us and dispossess us,resulting in end of an attack or conceding a silly goal, Walmiki said. Now,we are being trained to just pass-and-move. That’s how the successful teams play. Before you receive the ball,you should know whom you have to pass it to. We are being taught to think one step ahead.
Playing under foreign coaches is not something new for Walmiki. Two years ago,he played in the German league for Frankenthal Hockey Club. That was a big learning experience for me. The level of hockey there is very high. It took me quite some time to adjust to their style and level but it helped me improve a lot, Walmiki says.
Walmiki has also played under Australian coach Andrew Meredith during his stint with Mumbai Marines in the World Series Hockey but he believes Clark is different. Walmiki,whose elder brother Yuvraj is also among the probables for the senior team,believes he is already witnessing changes in his game. That’s also because of the time and the duration I have spent under Gregg. It’s for the first time I have had such a prolonged spell under a foreign coach. Gregg has a very unique way of teaching. For example,he told us to watch the matches of the senior team on TV during the World League and come up with our observations. It’s more about learning modern methods, he said.
Walmiki was also a part of the junior team’s Europe tour recently and conceded that it helped them identify a lot of grey areas,while also highlighting the positives. It gave us a better picture of where we stand in terms of preparations. For any team,it is important to play top teams regularly to improve, he said.
Now,he is already dreaming about the junior World Cup. Everyone in the camp is excited about it. Not one day goes when we don’t talk it. It’s a big thing,especially because we are playing at home. But if our training goes on with same intensity,I am confident of a top-four finish, Walmiki says.
Walmiki’s childhood coach Merzban Patel said it’s necessary for him to be focussed. Fitness and physique are two key demands of modern hockey and he needs to keep on working on that. More importantly,he needs to maintain focus as he can play for another 10 years. Junior World Cup is not everything,he has to play for the senior team as well. So focus and passion is very important, Patel said.