Prabodh Tirkey started playing hockey because of one reason. Yes, just one. It is the only sport the whole of Lulkidihi, a village in the Sundargarh district of Orissa where he belongs, plays!
He made it to the national team only five years ago, but since then made significant strides to become a name to reckon with in the game.
In May, the 23-year-old was named captain of the national side, replacing his idol and state-mate Dilip Tirkey. It was a well-deserved promotion for the hardworking midfielder, but along with it came a host of responsibilities. Converting a team low on morale to a winning outfit was the foremost.
With six months having elapsed since being at the helm, has Prabodh done a good job?
The answer is in the affirmative: The showing of the national team suggests that. A bronze medal at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, followed by another medal of the same hue at the Champions Challenge in Boom, Belgium, and, finally, the big one -- the triumph at the Asia Cup in Chennai only affirms that the boy from the backwoods of Lulkidihi, and India hockey, has grown in stature.
So far, so good. But what next? Maybe a medal at the Beijing Olympics?
'The Olympics is definitely the main focus but we need to realise that first we have to qualify for Beijing,' says Prabodh, in what seems a very practical observation.
A good showing at any of the three qualifying tournaments in Auckland, Santiago and Kakamigahara next year and India will be in the race to regain long lost glory.
Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Also read: Hockey gives them a high
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