It was a grandiose domestic hockey comeback after a three-year hiatus for former international forward Yuvraj Walmiki. The 32-year-old striker played a meaningful role in Railway Sports Promotion Board winning the Obaidullah Khan Heritage Cup at Bhopal, where they toppled Army XI in the final. Yuvraj slammed a sizzling hat-trick in Railway Sports Promotion Board’s 14-0 win over Madhya Pradesh Hockey Association – he even scored a crucial goal in the shootout of the semifinals against formidable Indian Oil.
“I’m really happy with my comeback to domestic hockey in the Obaidullah Khan Heritage Cup. My domestic comeback would not have possible without the immense support of Railways coach Sunilbhai (Sunil Singh), who believed in my abilities. I still remember Sunilbhai telling my younger brother Devinder Walmiki (he was playing for PSPB) during the 2021 nationals in Bengaluru that I should resume playing domestic hockey). I’m also thankful to Railway sports head Pravinbhai and Northern Railway coach Prem Kumar for backing me all the time,” Yuvraj says in a chat with Hockey Passion.
Yuvraj was candid enough to concede that he was far from peak fitness when he represented Railways in the 57th Senior Nehru Hockey Tournament held at Hyderabad late last year. “I was slow in my movements during the Nehru Hockey Tournament. I had put on weight and over the last couple of months, I have been putting in the hard yards to improve my fitness. Within a month I was able to reduce 5-6 kg, adhering to a stick diet with no sugar and junk food. I scored 21.6 in my yo-yo test, which was my best after so many years,” he gushes.
The 2014 World-cupper subsequently stamped his authority while turning out for East Bengal and helping the red-and-gold brigade win the Kolkata Premier Division hockey crown after a long gap of 33 years. “It was a fantastic experience to play in the Kolkata Premier Division Hockey League. The league is play on grass, so it was nice to play on grass for a change. I could only play three games for East Bengal as I was busy playing the Obaidullah Khan Heritage Cup. I scored seven goals in three games – winning the league was a proud moment for all of us since East Bengal won the league after a lengthy period of 33 years,” he says with a tinge of excitment.
The former international is keen to play domestic hockey on a consistent basis. “I aim to play domestic hockey for the next 2-3 years. I want to perform well and inspire the youngsters in my team in some way or the other. There can’t be anything bigger for a player than playing against the country’s top domestic teams,” he concludes.
Railways Sports Promotion Board coach Sunil Singh lavished praise on the former international striker. “Yuvraj is a reliable operator for the Railway outfit. He brings a lot of experience to the Railway side. He has worked really hard on his fitness and he dished out a good showing at the Obaidullah Khan Heritage Cup.”