Shanyl Balwanth is one of the few field hockey players who have also represented their country in international indoor hockey. But this is not his only claim to fame. The 24-year-old is also the first player of Indian origin to represent South Africa in hockey.
Balwanth is here with the team at the Hero Honda FIH Hockey World Cup as a defender and has come in as substitute in all the three matches.
Though Thursday’s 12-0 hammering at the hands of world No. 2 Australia was a painful experience for Balwanth and his teammates, the young bunch has gained from the experience. Balwanth, who was a travelling standby with the Beijing Olympics team, traces his roots to Goa from where his ancestors moved to South Africa decades ago.
“We are in South Africa since six generations. We come from Goa though I have never been there,” Balwanth told HT.
“I am the first hockey player of Indian origin to play for SA,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. Balwanth has earned 16 caps for the South African field hockey team and 10 in indoor hockey. “I made my debut in a four-nation tournament in Chile in 2007. We played it as part of our build-up for the Beijing Olympics,” said Balwanth, who made his debut in the World Cup on Sunday.
Balwanth picked up hockey from his mother, who played at the school level, and is an accounts graduate.