New Delhi: It is a blazing hot afternoon, a group of 4-5 boys are sitting under the shade of a mango tree with hockey sticks in their hands. The kids are from a village a few kilometres off Sundergarh town, a place where no one speaks or talks about cricket, it is hockey all the way. Ask anyone about their favourites sportsperson and it is hockey player, most prefer and idolise Dileep Tirkey, cricket does not even feature in the list. Most of the local tournaments held here are not fancy affairs, at times the prize is a goat.
Sundergarh belongs to impoverished region of the Chotha Nagpur Plateau, a place which has great mineral wealth, yet has seen little or no development. The region is famous for producing world class hockey players and being good is at the time the only hope for a secured future. It is not a cakewalk for most of them, the dream involves endlessly hours of honing their skills with makeshift bamboo sticks, poles serve as goalposts.
Drenched in sweat and a bruised leg to show off, 10-year-old Amit Tirkey, dribbles with a piece of stick bent at one end. He is too poor to afford a proper hockey stick. Mention the name of any of the famous hockey players from this region and his eyes light up. He adds, "I share the same surname as Dileep Tirkey and I want to be a great player like him, but I want to be a midfielder or a forward and not a defender." When asked why, he adds, "I like to score goals and not stop goals". Pat comes a tap on his head from his friend, who dares him to score a goal and off they go to play on the dusty and stony surface, the joy clearly evident for all to see.