Weight and watch for Walmiki
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Asked by coach Michael Nobbs to bulk up his frame, last year's Asian Championship hero follows India's progress from home.
Ordos, September 2011. India and Pakistan have played 85 minutes of hard-fought hockey (including 15 minutes of extra time) but have failed to score the decisive goal that will help either of the two clinch the Asian Champions Trophy title. The match eventually goes to penalties and India win 4-2.
The encounters between India and Pakistan have often thrown up new, unforgettable heroes. That afternoon in Ordos, the performance of one man stood out. Yuvraj Walmiki, a young, promising striker from the city set the turf on fire with some scintillating performances in the tournament. But a calmly taken penalty, which eventually helped India clinch the title, announced his arrival on the big stage.
"It was a big break for me. I was a part of the national camp 13 times before but wasn't picked. The coach (Michael Nobbs) showed a lot of faith in me. That match has played a crucial role in shaping up my career," he recalls. "I wasn't able to sleep the night before, I was so nervous. But I learnt a lot about handling pressure, delivering in crunch situations and more than anything else, got the feel of playing in a high-voltage match."
A year on, it's likely that India and Pakistan will battle it out in the final of the same competition yet again on Thursday. Unfortunately for him, Walmiki won't be a part of the tie this time round. Instead, he will working out at a gym in Mumbai while his mates go head to head against their opponents in the final in Doha. The 23-year-old has been asked by chief coach Michael Nobbs to bulk up a bit so as to match his opponents physically. "So my routine now involves a lot of weight training. I spend a lot of time in the gym," he says. "Getting into the team is very easy. Holding on to your place is difficult. The coach has told me to improve my muscle weight so I am working on it."
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