Yuvraj Walmiki is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the history of Indian hockey. The 31-year-old scored 14 goals in 52 matches for the country from 2010 to 2014. Having won a bronze medal in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (2012) and a silver medal in Champions Challenge (2011), it was the gold medal in Asian Champions Trophy (2011) that stood out as India had defeated Pakistan in the grand finale to become the champions. After the match had gone down to penalty shoot-outs, Walmiki took a crucial penalty and scored as the Men in Blue went on to clinch a famous win.
In a conversation with SportsTiger, Yuvraj reflected on that incredible triumph for India, the Indo-Pak rivalry, his decision to take the penalty and the historic final that changed his life.
We never wanted to lose against Pakistan: Yuvraj
Yuvraj Walmiki shed light on the famous India-Pakistan rivalry and how the players used to feel ahead of those games. The 31-year-old stated that it is always a special match when these two neighbouring nations meet. "No planning and strategies work on that day, it’s all about emotions," said Yuvraj on 'SportsTiger Talks', adding, "We always outplay Pakistan, with due to respect to them." While he admitted that they are friends off the field, Yuvraj also revealed that they used to forget everything when went out inside the field as neither side wanted to lose this contest.
Yuvraj reflects on the historic finale in 2011
It was the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy in China and the stage was perfectly set for the final as India were playing against Pakistan. Yuvraj revealed that his parents and family were watching the match at their neighbour’s place since there was no electricity at their home. With the match ending as 0-0 after the end of 70 minutes, the Mumbai-born player was desperate to make an impact in the finale to make a name for himself.
Yuvraj revealed, "I hardly used to practice for penalty shoot-outs in training. But since I was not sure if my family and everyone would have seen me running around in the match, I thought taking a penalty would help me make a name for myself. I will have 6 seconds of close-up on me and that will be my moment of glory. This is why I decided to take the penalty."
However, it was a slightly different story when Yuvraj got his chance to take the penalty. The 31-year-old admitted that he forgot about everything, his neighbours, newspapers, Marine Drive, etc., as all he could see at that time was the Indian flag. India's No. 9 kept his composure to score a brilliant penalty for his nation, which eventually led his side to a historic title.
Watch Yuvraj's penalty:
The Indian hockey star admitted that the feeling of winning the game for country and watching the national flag fly high was one of the best he ever experienced in his career. Walmiki admitted that his life changed after the historic win.