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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Home support drives Indian hockey team’s Odisha trio ahead

Local stars Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas and Dipsan Tirkey are all geared up ahead of the Indian men’s national hockey team’s Hockey World League Final campaign in Bhubaneswar

other-sports Updated: Nov 29, 2017 19:32 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Birendra Lakra is one of the three players from Odisha in the Indian men’s national hockey team.
Birendra Lakra is one of the three players from Odisha in the Indian men’s national hockey team.(Getty Images)

Playing before the home crowd, including parents, friends and even enemies always makes one excited. No wonder, local stars Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas and Dipsan Tirkey, part of the Indian hockey team at the Hockey World League Final are all geared up.

“There will always be a little bit of pressure at a big event like this where we are playing the top seven teams of the world. But I am excited and eagerly waiting to play in front of my home crowd. I am expecting many of my friends and family to come and watch our matches,” said Lakra, a reliable fullback who returns to the India side after a long injury lay-off. He last played for India during the Australia Tour in December last. “People are crazy about hockey in Odisha and the support we enjoy in Bhubaneswar always makes this a special venue for the Indian team.”

While Rohidas had an impressive run in this year’s Hockey India League that propelled him to the senior core group, Tirkey is a Junior World Cup hero who has made a smooth transition into the senior team.

READ | Back from injury, Rupinder Pal is ready for big challenge at Hockey World League Final

“This is the first time we will be playing for India in front of our home crowd in Odisha,” said Tirkey, 19. “We have played plenty of HIL matches in Kalinga Stadium but, of course, this is a different platform and we want to do well,” added defender and drag-flicker Rohidas who was impressive in India’s Asia Cup win.

That the two will play alongside Lakra in the backline is comforting for them. “It is not just Biru (Birendra) but seniors like Sunil, Manpreet and Rupinder have also been extremely encouraging. They have been guiding us in every session. As a team, we have worked very hard for this tournament and the fact that we did well in Belgium as well as Asia Cup will motivate us to achieve good results in HWLF,” says Rohidas.

Tirkey feels they are mentally prepared and have no burden of expectations after one-to-one chat with coach Sjoerd Marijne. “The coach has had one-to-one chat with us on mental preparation for this tournament. We are aware of our individual duties and our focus is to execute the team’s strategies without letting pressure of expectations affect us,” states Tirkey.

READ | Indian men’s hockey team to face Pakistan in Commonwealth Games 2018 opener

Alongside them will be Nilam Sanjeep Xess, a young fullback from Sundargarh district, who is among the 200-plus volunteers at the event.

“I can get to watch them closely, how they prepare before a match, how they unwind, how they train in practice sessions. This will be an experience that will undoubtedly benefit me to improve my game too,” said Nilam.

Like Nilam, four other state players Binit Ekka (18), a left-half, fullback Chandrakant Barik (20) and forwards Ashwin Kujur (18) and Ashok Lakra (20) will be volunteering at the event.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 19:32 IST