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Hockey India League has been pivotal to the rise of national team, says Shridharan Thamba

Starting off as a national level player in 1986, the Pune-born referee has been associated with the sport for over three decades and plans to continue for a couple more if his body can take it. In 2011 Thamba was picked for the World Hockey league as one of India’s eight umpires.

pune Updated: Jul 12, 2018 15:34 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Hockey India League,Shridharan Thamba
Shridharan Thamba, international match referee(HT PHOTO)

Shridharan Thamba (46), who officiated the finale between Excellency Academy and Bombay Engineering Group, has an illustrious playing and refereeing career. Starting off as a national level player in 1986, the Pune-born referee has been associated with the sport for over three decades and plans to continue for a couple more if his body can take it.

During the half-time interval, Thamba shared how he went on to become an international match referee at the World Hockey League and the things related to the sport that he holds very closely to his heart.

How long has it been since you started being an umpire?

I started as an umpire after my initial coaching days in the late 90s. In 2004, I went for my first national camp on the recommendation of Ramesh Pillay and Dhanraj Pillay. My performances in the 2011 senior nationals were impressive and I was rewarded as the best umpire of the tournament and I was picked for the World Hockey League as one of India’s eight umpires. The learning at that tournament was second to none and the coaches out there were very supportive and inspiring.”

How long does a typical umpiring career span out for?

It varies from person to person. For me, even if there is no tournament, I’m always on the hockey field. I run 45-60 minutes every day to be fit to take charge of matches. I want to be an umpire for the best of matches like the one between Excellency and Krida Prabodhini and fitness is a motivating factor.”

From a neutral point, where do you see Hockey India League (HIL) as compared to the World Hockey League and the benefits such a league provides?

The HIL has given a good platform for the upcoming players to rise and shine and get an opportunity to play with world-class players. Hockey India is now privy to players aged 23-25 through the HIL and also the nationals. Yes, there is some way to go to be at the international level, but we’re getting there eventually.”

Every sport needs a good foundation. What do you thing is being done for hockey in terms of infrastructure and other factors?

We must promote hockey at the school and college level as it will help find talented players from all around the city. Hockey Maharashtra has conducted various national level tournaments in the 5-a-side and 11-a-side formats which are seeing more and more players participating. We’re also planning to build an academy where such players can come and train for a few hours every day using world-class facilities. There are such academies in some of the bigger cities and it’s important for us to get one in Pune as well.”

How has the response been among the girls and what steps are been taken towards encouraging them to participate?

Over the last two years, a number of girls’ teams are coming up as well. Earlier there was just one in Krida Prabodhini, but now there are a few in Khadki as well as in Pimpri-Chinchwad. National umpire SS Thapa is also taking care of those sides by spending his own money. Recently, they even went for a one-month training camp and I had also attended it along with Vikram Pillay and Vikas Pillay to coach the girls.”

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 17:05 IST