Tucked away in the state of Jharkhand, Simdega has carved out a reputation as a hockey hub. The likes of Michael Kindo (1972 Munich Olympics bronze medallist and a member of the 1975 World Cup-winning team), Sylvanus Dung Dung (won a gold at the 1980 Moscow OLympics) and Tokyo Olympian Salima Tete have made Simdega proud with their exploits on the hockey turf. Another talented youngster who promises to carry forward the rich Simdega legacy forward is Sangita Kumar.
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The 20-year-old, who hails from Karnaguri-Nawatoli village in Simdega district, had her bout of struggles to keep her passion for hockey going. Her father – Ranjit Majhi – a small-time farmer – faced economic hardships to support a family of eight (Sangita is one among six children). There were days when Sangita used to play hockey with green custard apples or balls chiselled from bamboo roots. She initially honed her hockey skills initially under coach Benedict Kujur (a former principal of the school), at RC Upgraded Middle School, Karanagagudi. Sangita subsequently trained under coach Pratima Barwa at Residential Girls Hockley Training Center in Simdega. Sangita landed a job in Indian Railways last year as a Junior Clerk – something that to some extent, would ease the economic hardships of her family.
Sangita first catapulted herself into national attention when she produced a show-stealer performance in India winning a bronze at the 2016 Under-18 Asia Cup Hockey Tournament at Bangkok. She scored a brace in India’s 3-0 win over South Korea in the bronze medal play-off tie, and finished the tournament, scoring 8 out of 14 goals India scored in the tournament, including a sizzling hat-trick against Chinese Taipei.
Sangita underwent a surgery for a serious knee injury in 2018 and was forced out of hockey action for the entire period of 2019. She marked her return to action, emerging as the top goal-scorer of Khelo India Youth Games 2020, playing her part in Jharkhand’s runners-up finish in the Girls’ Under-21 final, where they went down to Haryana 3-5. The youngster was slated to play her biggest tourney of her fledging career – the Junior Women’s World Cup in South Africa in December 2021 – the event was postponed owing to Covid-19. Interestingly, Sangita alongside Beauty Dungdung and Salima Tete were among three Jharkhand girls named in the Indian Women’s Junior World Cup Squad. Sangita put up an impressive performance in the 2021 Chile tour as well – scoring four goals in five matches.
“Sangita is an extremly talented girl. I think the way she dribbles inside the striking circle is amazing and I have not seen anyone with such dribbling skills and I’m not saying this just because she is from Simdega. She has the pace to rattle the opposition,” says Hockey Simdega President Manoj Konbegi, bubbling with excitement in a telephonic chat with Hockey Passion from Simdega.
Konbegi feels Sangita’s inclusion in the senior women’s team will embolden children in Simdega to pursue hockey. “Look, Jharkhand now has three players in the women’s team – Nikki Pradhan, Salima Tete and Sangita Kumari – the rapid strides these girls have made would surely spur kids in the village to take up hockey and secure jobs to support their families as well as develop a strong hockey culture in their villages,” he quips.
Sangita is an exciting prospect in the Indian women’s hockey team forwardline – one hopes that she would unleash herself in the twin Pro League games against Spain and help her side walk down the victory path.