Diwakar Ram a drag-flicker of immense talent

By Avishek Roy, IANS

Hyderabad: Indian hockey has found a highly talented drag-flicker in Diwakar Ram. His utility to the side could be seen in the two games India played in the junior Asia Cup here, particularly the manner in which he produced two goals against a fighting Japan in the championship opener.

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Diwakar is making a progress at an astonishing pace and in four international tournaments in his short career, he has struck 26 goals and all from penalty corners, a conversion rate that would be envy of any defender.

In the Azlan Shah Cup, Diwakar, along with Sandeep Singh, was a potent force in helping India win a silver medal — a first in an elite competition after a gap of 12 years.

“It was a great tournament for me. It will always remain as a golden chapter in my career. It sounds nice when people talk about you and your game,” Diwakar told IANS.

“I am very much satisfied with my performance so far. I hope that our performance in Azlan Shah sparks a revival of Indian hockey. I would love to see India win an Olympic gold,” he said with a glint in his eyes.

Diwakar, who is here playing in the junior Asia Cup, idolises Jugraj Singh and was inspired by the drag-flicker’s performance in the 2003 Champions Trophy. Jugraj unfortunately met with a car accident in 2003, and his international career was abruptly cut short.

But Jugraj at least ignited young minds like Diwakar to take to hockey.

“I picked up Jugraj’s style. I used to watch him on television and that’s how I learnt drag-flicking,” says Diwakar, who has scored four goals in the junior Asia Cup tournament here.

The 18-year-old Diwakar hails from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and was introduced to the sport five years ago by his father.

“My father Indrajeet wanted me and my brother Prabhakar to take up any sport of our choice. He is a sport fanatic and just wanted us to play so we had no other option. I found this game most exciting and challenging,” a shy Diwakar said.

His brother Prabhakar plays for the Air Force while Diwakar has been representing Indian Oil since 2006.

The youngster shot into fame in the junior eight-nation tournament in Monchengladbach (Germany), last August, where he scored eight goals.

Soon after that he top scored with 12 goals in another junior tournament in Kuala Lumpur and helped his team finish runners-up. Based on the performance he got a call-up from the senior team for the Azlan Shah and then on he has not looked back.

Diwakar says now he is working to add more punch in his shots.

“During our junior camp at Patiala, I met Jugraj who taught me finer points of drag-flicking. He told me how to strike with power and I am following it,” he said.

“I also learnt a lot from my senior teammate Sandeep Singh playing alongside him. He has more power and aggression.”

Diwakar began his hockey career from the Uttar Pradesh Government-run hockey hostel at Rampur. But his coach S.K. Lahiri asked him to shift his base to the famous K.D. Singh ‘babu’ Hockey Hostel in Lucknow where he polished his game.

“When I saw him (Diwakar) for the first time, I knew that he would play for India. He used to bend his body while playing in defence, and then I realised that he could be a good drag-flicker,” recalls Lahiri, who is currently posted at Barabanki.

“He used to scoop the ball 70-80 yards during training in Lucknow, and before putting him in defence, I tried him as a left-half just to release his fear of the ball,” he added.