Dhanraj Pillay took on the city's aspiring hockey players in a friendly and he is happy with the quality of play.
Former India hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay is impressed with the local hockey talent as he feels that some of them can make it to the national team in the coming years. Pillay featured in a friendly on the weekend where ex-hockey players went up against local players who were a part of the training camp organised by Yuvraj Walmiki and his brother Devindar at the Mumbai Hockey Association Stadium.
Pillay, nicknamed “anna” by his teammates hanged up his boots years ago but his popularity has not gone down over the years. It was almost impossible to borrow Pillay from a crowd that had gathered to get his autograph and signature on old pictures of his playing days.
The Walmiki brothers organised a week-long clinic where German coach Fabian Rozwadowski trained the young hockey players of the city. The youngsters responded by turning up in numbers. Pillay, who helped Yuvraj all along to set up the clinic, played a 40-minute match with the students. Although the veteran’s side won the match with ease, he feels there is great potential in the players.
“I saw great players here who could make it big. I hope that some players from Mumbai make it to the national team,” said the former World Cup winner.
“Fabian is a great coach and also a great guy. He adopted the Indian culture well. You couldn’t tell if he is Indian or German from his habits. The kids have learned a great deal of hockey under his guidance,” further added Pillay.
The city has groomed many hockey players in the past including Pillay himself who played four Olympics and four World Cups.
Surprisingly, the 2017 Asia Cup winning squad had only one player from Mumbai, Suraj Karkera. The Walmiki brothers have won medals in respective competitions for the country but their chances of return still look bleak.
To which Pillay said, “You need time for everything. Yuvraj and Devindar have played well for the country in the past. Mumbai always produces sturdy athletes, I think some will emerge from this camp itself.”
Most of the top-class players move on to coaching after retirement as the passion for the game does not allow them to move away. After Roelant Oltmans was sacked as the men's national team coach, Pillay pointed out that there should be an Indian coach who should take charge, which was not the case as Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne was appointed as the head coach of the team.
“I do not know about coaching the Indian team. My terms with the association are indifferent,” Pillay said.
“But I am proud that they brought the Asia Cup back home along with World Cup qualification. My message to the team will be to stay fit because the schedule is hectic,” he further added.