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Meet the other Yuvraj

He is the Yuvraj of Indian hockey but unlike his much more well known cricketing counterpart, Yuvraj Walmiki's life wasn't exactly a bed of roses before Asian Champions Trophy happened.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2011 22:43 IST
Yuvraj Walmiki,Asian Champions Trophy,Marine Lines

He is the Yuvraj of Indian hockey but unlike his much more well known cricketing counterpart, Yuvraj Walmiki's life wasn't exactly a bed of roses before Asian Champions Trophy happened.

From living in a shanty in Marine Lines without electricity all his life to becoming the next big thing in Indian cricket, it has been an arduous journey for the youngster.

The 21-year-old's home in the compound of Niranjan Housing Society, wore a festive look today with several welcome back placards and was flooded with a throng of visitors -- relatives, friends, mediapersons, well-wishers and curious onlookers.

Back home to a hero's welcome at the domestic airport here this morning after starring in India's triumph over arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asian Champion's Trophy final, Yuvraj, whose roots lie in Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh, was felicitated by the two estranged Thackeray cousins Uddhav and Raj, who champion the cause of 'Marathi Manoos'.

"Everyone has problems. But it is how you handle them that is important. I have never let these affect me when I stepped on the hockey ground. Many people have helped me at various stages," he told reporters.

He was quick to recall the contribitions of his friend Boon D'Souza, who introduced him to hockey, 'Bawa sir', who coached him since his early days, and former India skipper Dhanraj Pillay, who after discovering his potential got him a contract with Air India in 2007.

Yuvraj was also thankful to Chief coach Michael Nobbs for trusting his ability and allowing him to take the penalty shootout strike, which gave India the all-important lead over Pakistan.

"It was a crucial match and I could not sleep the day before. To play in an India-Pakistan hockey match was a dream come true. Wasim Ahmed and Shakeel Abbasi are legends and I have watched them only on TV before.

"I told the coach that I wanted to take the strike. He trusted me and gave me the chance. When my turn came India were in a dicey situation. Had I missed India could have lost the match, so I was a little nervous but was also the grace of God I was able to score.

"Prior to the tournament, there were 110 hockey players in the camp. I felt that to be among the 18 out of 110 players was itself a great achievement. But the day of the final was the most memorable one in my life," he added.

However, Yuvraj, a student of Rizvi College in Bandra here, is not satisfied with the laurels, and is targeting Olympic glory for the country.

"It's a new team, new coaching staff. First tournament and first gold for me and the coach. It has been a good beginning for both of us. But we are just the Asian champions. We have to do well in the upcoming tournaments and the Olympic qualifiers, and hopefully we will do well in the Olympics as well."

Commenting on the award of Rs 10 lakh -- announced by Maharashtra government -- he said, "The Chief Minister has announced to give Rs 10 lakh, and offered help in getting a house. He has asked me to meet him tomorrow. The Mumbai Hockey Association too has promised to give me Rs 1.5 lakh. Let's see what happens."

On the paltry Rs 25,000 cash prize announced by Hockey India, which was rejected by the team, he said, "No hockey player had said that we want money. Every hockey player plays for the country."

Meanwhile, Yuvraj's father, Sunil Walmiki, a chauffeur by profession, is surprised by the attention his son is getting.

"When he arrived at the airport, about 200-300 school children performed for him. Balasaheb Thackeray called him and gave him blessings. I never thought this would happen. I am very happy. My son has done something special for the country.

"Our house has no water, toilet facilities, or electricity. The children (four sons) studied under candle-light and when rain or wind blew candle off, they studied under street-light. Yuvraj has worked very hard. May he continue to make the country and the state proud."

"We wanted to give him a rousing welcome but couldn't. But I have ordered chicken biryani for him. However, till evening, he hasn't been able to drink a drop of water let alone have food (due to the media attention)," he said.

First Published: Sep 14, 2011 20:52 IST