Devinder awaits senior team call
The ball goes from junior Walmiki to senior Walmiki; he traps and sends it to junior Walmiki, who dodges the goalkeeper and makes no mistake. It's a goaaal!!
Hockey commentators in Mumbai have been using the names 'senior Walmiki and junior Walmiki' to identify two sibling players in local school tournaments for years now.
"The commentator got so tired calling us Devinder Walmiki and Yuvraj Walmiki that he just chose to call us senior and junior Walmiki," reminisces Devinder, the younger of the two Walmiki brothers, narrating an incident at an inter-school game.
While the senior Walmiki, Yuvraj, has already made it to the senior India team, Devinder, having led the India juniors in 2010, is itching to join his elder brother. And going by recent performances he could soon be there.
His next assignment will be in Sydney, Australia, where he will be playing for Gordon North hockey club for three months, starting May. It is not the first time that Walmiki junior will be playing for a foreign club. His first sojourn was in Gemany in 2010, when he represented TG Frankenthal club.
Devinder made heads turn in the WSH
The lanky teenager made heads turn in the just-concluded World Series Hockey (WSH) with an outstanding showing for Mumbai Marines, scoring four goals in the tournament.
Essentially a midfielder, he took upon the role of drag-flicker for Mumbai Marines and delivered, though his franchise finished at the bottom of the eight-team table. Being able to scoring from the penalty-corner drill, he feels, is an asset, which could well earn him a place in the senior India ranks.
A few years ago, it was Devinder who was the toast of the town, and Yuvraj lived in his shadow when they played for their school, Our Lady of Dolours in Mumbai, and Bombay Republicans club. It was he who grabbed more newspaper headlines than his lanky brother. More than skill it was his strong built and quick reflexes that made him an ideal midfielder.
Thus, he got the India call-up before Yuvraj, when he was named in the junior side for the 2010 Sultan of Johor Cup in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Now, even as his brother basks in the glory of some fine performances for the senior India team, he is waiting to make the transformation to the senior ranks.
And he knows his time will come. He points out: "Yuvraj had done 12 senior National camps but never got an opportunity to play for India. At his 13th National camp he not only got selected for the Asian Champions Trophy, in September 2011 in China, but went on to score in the penalty shoot-out of the final, which India won, beating Pakistan 4-2.
'I know my chance will also come'
With so much hockey around them, Devinder dismisses talk about any sibling rivalry. He looks up to Yuvraj, saying his elder brother is his role model and inspiration, and is confident of him cementing his place in the senior India team.
"For boys in Mumbai, Dhanraj Pillay is their hero; but, for me, it's Yuvraj first and then Dhanraj Sir!"
He talks in one breath adding, "I started playing hockey because of Yuvraj. Had he not picked up a hockey stick, I would never have been introduced to the game.
"Whenever people praise me and my game, I always remind them that I am here only because of my brother.
"He is senior to me and has seen more in life. I know my chance will also come."
Indeed, after the good showing in the WSH, Devindar could well be on the threshold of the senior India ranks. For now, though, he is happy that he is delivered the promise he gave his veteran coach Marzban Patel, fondly known as 'Bawa'.
"Bawa is ageing and wanted to see at least two of his boys playing at the national level. I am glad Yuvraj and I got the opportunity to play for India," he says, in a choked voice.
Sure, it won't be long before 'Bawa' sees the two brothers in the senior India colours.