Play by the whistle of the umpire, hockey players are told from a very young age.
Mohmmad Samad, however, could not follow the unwritten code - his hearing and speech were impaired. But, instead of quitting the sport, Samad shifted to a position where he would not have to wait for the umpire's whistle. He became a goalkeeper.
Playing for Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy in the ongoing National Championships, the 20-year-old reminds everyone of Iqbal, the character in Nagesh Kukunoor's acclaimed movie by the same name that depicted the travails of a deaf and mute cricketer.
Watching Samad in action, one wonders how he interacts with coaches and team-mates, on and off the pitch. "We have played together for many years now, so I can anticipate their movement and adjust accordingly," explains Samad with the help of a friend.
Some of his team-mates have picked up rudimentary sign language and that helps them communicate. Samad got hooked to hockey seeing his father, Abdul Wahab - a national-level player from Bhopal - in action.
"I used to play as centre-forward for my employers, BHEL. Samad used to accompany me to the ground for practice and developed a passion for the game. International players like Salim Abbasi and Mohd Yusuf recognised his love for hockey and helped him," said Wahab.
Dhanraj Pillay is Samad's role model and he wants to be popular like him. Samad, who played for the Sports Authority of India (Bhopal) team for five years, recently shifted to the state academy. Like every budding hockey player, he aspires to play at the top level. And his handicap is certainly not going to come in his way.