I love playing gully cricket when I am in Mumbai: Devindar Walmiki

In an interview with Mumbai Live, Indian hockey star Devindar Walmiki reveals his journey as a hockey player along with his future plans. Find out how a boy from Mumbai slums made it to the Indian Hockey Team

I love playing gully cricket when I am in Mumbai: Devindar Walmiki

Mumbai is known as the 'City of Dreams' as it is said to be home to the people who come here to fulfil their dreams. The people here who do achieve their dreams and attain success are looked up upon. However, they often overlook the struggles that proceed the success. One such tale of struggles is that of Indian Hockey Player, Devindar Walmiki who has been part of the national team since 2014.

His journey is not only inspiring but also a reminder to us that hard work and persistence always pays off. Devindar, along with his brother Yuvraj Walmiki has been an integral part of the Indian Hockey team and have also played a pivotal role in earning the national team victories.

In a recent interaction with Mumbai Live, Devindar Walmiki reveals how he went on to play for the national team after a rocky phase through his childhood. 

What do you think will be India’s greatest challenge in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

"2020 will be challenging and playing against top countries like Australia & Holland will not be easy. It’ll be some fierce competition. It will be challenging but I believe the vision of the Indian team is in the right direction and we are working towards it each day. I think India still remembers the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where India lost the quarter-final against Belgium… it was a hard time but we are working harder each day hoping it doesn’t repeat again. We have to focus on the podium as that's our target!"

Tell me about your routine. How are you practising for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020?

"At the present moment I am in Holland playing for HGC in Holland and I am also playing EHL as our club has been qualified. I am playing for a club named HGC which is in Holland, Amsterdam. The preparations are going well, we will be playing in the top hockey league so I think with god’s grace it will be slightly easier for me to make to the 2020 Olympics."

How different is it to play for a club than playing with Indian players?

"Obviously it's different to play for a club, playing with Indian players feels good but it's important for every player to play in other countries because, in my opinion, the leagues in India don't know about other countries. Sadly, India doesn't have top leagues as yet; compared to Holland & Belgium. I believe Indian players should go to other countries and play the leagues as they can learn a set of distinguished cultures, methods to play amongst many others. It’s a humongous opportunity to play in other countries and with it comes to a sense of responsibility and prestige to make and represent India better."

You once said in an interview that you had to face a lot of adversities throughout your childhood. What kept you going during those days?


"Yes, I mean obviously I have faced many obstacles which actually made me realise that I can be a better person one day, that I can fight all this. It was a struggling phase I had to cross all those hurdles and barriers as it made me strong. My parents always supported me through that phase and were my rocks, as there were a lot of ups and downs in life. This was a time in my life where I’d lost all will and everything that goes with it. There were more downs than ups but it was also here, at this moment, my parents, my coach believed in me, motivated me each day and that changed my life.

Parents and teachers play a huge part in a growing soul’s life. Everything that I’ve faced has built me and my character, there have been no shortcuts and I don’t believe in shortcuts either. I have worked incredibly hard to be where I am today because it is my dream to make India proud as the best player in the field of hockey."

Your brother is also a hockey player and is senior to you. Given the facts that he has always been an inspiration for you, what is the one quality you admire about him?

Yuvraj introduced me to hockey and he took me to the hockey pitch because I wanted to see what hockey is all about. I remember I was 7 years old and like a lot of kids at that age, I wasn't aware of many things, especially hockey. I just knew it as a sport, not anything more than that. He took me to the hockey pitch with him and showed me every move, method and trick he knew. It was like something I’d never seen before - it got to me and I thought about it every day. So, one day I asked him, “Even I want to play hockey, I want to be a part of it, how can you help me with it?” He just said, All you should have is a hockey stick, shoes and clothes!”

That's how it all began. He has been my inspiration, my guide and my mentor to a large degree; I have learnt a lot from him. I still do as he says as he is my elder brother and he has more knowledge than I do. He has played 90+ matches for India - including the World Cup in 2014 in Holland and currently he is playing for the German club. Yuvraj is the only Indian to play for 8 consecutive years and that is absolutely incredible! I follow him and get inspired by him. He’ll always have a chat with me and be real with me about where I’m going wrong, how I can correct myself, how I can improve and play better. We constantly discuss and share our opinions with one another... it helps us. That's how we work and help each other to do better. One quality I admire most about him is that he is a fighter.

He always used to tell me, “Dev I am a fighter, not a loser!” He has seen a lot of turmoil in his life: he got injured a lot of times but he never quit, he always bounced back because he is extremely headstrong and determined. There have been innumerable times where he’s been injured miserably but he’s never shown it to anyone or liked people pitying him. That's how he is. I call him a goal machine with love! He truly in every sense is my inspiration, obviously!

On-field you are a midfielder representing India. What is Devendra Walmiki off the field? What are your interests or hobbies?

Yes, I am a ‘midfielder’ and I played for India as a midfielder however, now I have started playing in ‘defence’ because I want to be a complete player. Now I am a midfielder as well as a defender because in today's hockey game you can have any specific position in the game because the coach needs you to be a multi-talented player so that you can be placed in any position whenever and wherever it’s required. That's how hockey is played. Currently, I am playing in a club in Holland, where I am a defender both- right and left side. The coach believes in me so with god’s grace, yes I am doing good. 

Off the field, my interests are reading biographies of sportsmen that inspire and teach me to better myself with each passing day. I am a positive person so I try to self evaluate and improve myself with each passing day. Apart from that, like almost every other person in India, I enjoy playing cricket, whenever I am in Mumbai. I play on the streets with kids in those “gullys” as it gives me utmost joy playing with them!

Can you share a fond memory that you have with your brother?

A fond memory which comes to my mind is from back in  2015; when I made my debut. It was both the ‘Walmiki Brothers’ duo playing. We shared a dressing room and we had the best moments together which had us rolling on the floor laughing! I always wanted to play with him for India - which we did in 2015. My heart is still full, whenever I go back to those memories or I see pictures and read articles from that time - it takes me back to those moments with him and the fact that I represented India with Yuvraj.

We had a game against Poland where we were labelled as the “Walmiki Brothers.” The next day it was all over the papers; “Walmiki Brothers making India proud!” It was everywhere! I still remember that moment- it’s so surreal. It’s definitely the best memory I have to date and that pushes me to do better and better each day! A day prior to my debut match, he came to my room and said “Tomorrow is your debut, just be confident. You are a good player, just don't let our parents and our country down. Don't take any pressure.” So that's the memory I have that still gets me every time I think of it. 

It is sincerely my life’s goal and aims to be the best hockey player one has ever seen and have them say “Yes, this is Devindar Walmiki, the best hockey player in the world and he is from INDIA!”

In conclusion, I’ve simply been blessed in terms of my family and my guru as if it weren’t for them, the Walmiki Brothers wouldn’t exist today and make India proud.

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