From starting with a wooden stick because her family couldn't afford the more advanced versions, Amubi Devi has come a long way.
The 16-year-old left-half will now lead India juniors in the second Asia Cup, continuing a journey which began in a remote village called Baihikag in Manipur and which she hopes won't end without an Olympic medal.
“I always wanted to make it big in the game and today I am proud that I could realise my dream,” Amubi told HT on Thursday before leaving for New Delhi from where they fly to Shanghai on Friday. Competition begins on Monday.
India start campaign against Sri Lanka on Monday followed by a match against China the next day and against Thailand on Thursday. The semi-finals will be played on July 25 and the final is slated for July 26.
Amubi, the youngest of four siblings, accepted that three months’ training at the SAI Regional Centre was a great experience and a podium-finish in Shanghai is her biggest dream now.
She also claimed that experience of playing for India in different tournaments in Japan, Italy, Australia and the Asia Cup in Malaysia earlier this year would help her in Shanghai.
“China is the main team in our pool and we have drafted a different plan for them,” she said, adding, “at the same time we have made plans for Sri Lanka and Thailand too.”
Like others, Amubi is looking to hockey for economic uplift. “I never imagined that I would lead the Indian team and I know that playing better at the international level will open new avenues for my family and me.”
She insisted that despite being thin on experience, the young players in the team are capable of doing well in Shanghai. “We have done our homework in every aspect of the game, especially short-corners.”
The event is also the qualifying event for the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.