CHENNAI: Twenty eighteen has so far been a chastening year for most of the players in Indian hockey.
Reputations have been ruined, a promise has been stalled and performances have been ridiculed by all and sundry.
However, one guy — a boy, really — continues to excel at the world stage: 18-year-old Vivek Sagar Prasad.
The diminutive midfielder who made his senior debut only in January further enhanced his standing with his showing at this Youth Olympic Games. Skippering the side in hockey 5s, Prasad was the fulcrum as the Boys In Blue returned with a fine silver.
The Madhya Pradesh teenager, who has already joined the ongoing senior team camp in Bhubaneswar, is happy that the team managed to win a gong. But the disappointment of losing to Malaysia in the final was evident in his voice. “There was no set target as such,” he told Express.
“Obviously, you want to win gold and that’s what we had set out to do. But we wanted to take it match by match. Gold would have been nice, but a silver isn’t too shabby.”
Prasad, who is likely to be in the scheme of things for the World Cup as long as he stays fit, made his international bow under Sjoerd Marijne. How did he find the transition when Harendra Singh, a coach he has played under at the junior level, took over? “Both of them have guided me a lot. I did learn a lot about the field from both. Both coaches are similar in the way they set the team up, but they differ when it comes to explaining their tactics and structure.”
The lessons he’s learnt can be seen from the way he approaches games. When he first came into the side at the Invitational 4 Nations Tournament in New Zealand, talent was there, but he was very raw.Over the last 10 months, Prasad’s experience has already started to show.
“I think I have already improved as a player (compared to this time last year). I have bettered my skills. I have more experience. I now know how to carry myself on and off the field.”
With the World Cup a month or so away, most players will be fretting about their place in the side. But not the unassuming Prasad, who says he doesn’t even feel the pressure.
“I don’t think I have any pressure of being dropped. I am confident that if I continue to work hard, I will be in the team. The pressure I feel comes from my want to constantly learn and grow in the team.”
On the evidence of the last 10 months, Prasad needn’t worry too much.