Junior World Cup: Stage set for 21-year-old Vivek Sagar Prasad to underline status as future India captain

It was solely by likelihood that India’s prodigious expertise, Vivek Sagar Prasad, obtained launched to hockey.

“He performed a little bit of cricket,” his elder brother Vidya Sagar says, “and a few badminton.” At residence, the 2 brothers obsessed over chess, a ardour they share even right now.

One night, the priorities flipped. “There was a floor subsequent to the ordnance manufacturing unit close to our home in Itarsi. It was primarily used to play cricket however a couple of individuals who labored on the manufacturing unit used a small nook for hockey,” Vidya Sagar says.

Prasad reached the bottom one night to play cricket, however the hockey crew was falling wanting one participant. “So, they advised him to seize a stick and simply stand in defence,” Vidya Sagar provides. “That’s the way it started. Theek-thaak he hogaya sab uske baad se (He’s accomplished okay since).”


‘Theek-thaak’ is a really delicate method of describing Prasad’s flourishing profession.

Only 21, the second-youngest male participant ever to signify India has already amassed shut to 75 worldwide appearances, scored greater than a dozen objectives, led India to a Youth Olympics silver, received a bronze medal on the Olympics, the place he was one of many standout performers, named as International Hockey Federation’s rising star twice and is seen by many as the future captain of the nationwide crew.

Before that occurs, nonetheless, the centre-half may have to assist India’s U-21 crew, of which he’s the captain, navigate previous a really powerful Belgium facet within the quarterfinals of the Junior World Cup on Wednesday. The form of stage, Hockey India’s former high-performance director David John says, the place Prasad will thrive.

“The event has by no means bothered him,” John says. “The greater the event, the extra he performs. He doesn’t shrink into himself. He truly desires to be the one to show to the others that he’s vital, that he might execute (expertise) beneath strain.”


John is aware of. In 2018, the Australian and India’s then-coach Sjoerd Marijne took a leap of religion and chosen a rookie 17-year-old for the tour to New Zealand – 17 years, 10 months and 22 days, to be precise. It made Prasad the second-youngest participant ever to play for India, behind the participant who ultimately made method for him, former captain Sardar Singh, simply by 11 days.

From Marijne to John and former junior crew coach Jude Felix, everybody has been gushing over Prasad’s qualities – his quick determination making, skill to wrong-foot the taller, bodily stronger opponents, steady actions within the midfield, skill to rating objectives, fast fingers, and management skills.

In New Zealand, his debut tour, the shortest man on the sphere stood out as the crew’s greatest participant.

Shane McLeod – the perfect coach of the final decade, having taken Belgium to Olympic silver and gold, and a World Cup title in between – walked up to John and Marijne after India’s match in opposition to the European giants. “Who is that this boy?” McLeod inquired, in accordance to John. “He’s excellent.”


The artistic, attack-minded midfielder’s expertise mesmerise the entire world now. But on the Prasad family, the youthful son’s hockey exploits had been saved a secret from the daddy, a main college trainer who wished his youngsters to concentrate on research.

Prasad was solely seven years outdated when he was requested to fill in as a defender by the group that performed on the floor subsequent to Itarsi’s ordnance manufacturing unit. In an immediate, nonetheless, he was smitten and started taking part in frequently with them, later changing into part of the native crew that travelled across the area to play matches.

“The household’s monetary situation wasn’t that nice, so our father was lifeless in opposition to any sporting exercise. His goal was to guarantee we full our research and get an excellent job. Once, he even slapped Vivek for taking part in hockey,” Vidya Sagar, an engineer, laughs. “But since I used to be the elder of the 2, his focus remained extra on what I did. So Vivek continued taking part in without our father figuring out.”

Prasad travelled on buses without tickets, borrowed hockey sticks and wore his brother’s sneakers to make sure the household wasn’t burdened by his indulgence. His mom saved the again door of the home open for him to sneak out and in without his father figuring out. No one within the household, although, imagined it was something severe.

“One day, the coach of the native crew he performed for, got here to our home to search the permission of our dad and mom to take Vivek for a event exterior Bhopal,” Vidya Sagar says. “My father flatly refused. After quite a lot of convincing, he relented however solely after I identified to him that the household received’t even have to spend a penny since all bills could be taken care of.”

Prasad (proper) together with his brother Vidya Sagar (Express picture)

So, a younger Prasad travelled to Akola to play in opposition to males twice his size and age. It didn’t trouble him that the floor was tough and pebble-laden. With his deftness and anticipation, ball expertise and physique feints, Prasad glided on the grass discipline as if nobody existed.

At the tip of 1 match, Ashok Kumar, the previous India captain and legendary Dhyan Chand’s son, met Prasad close to the crew dugout and requested: “Bade stage par kheloge?”


In the years that adopted, Prasad reached past the extent even his mentor imagined. “But to attain this far, he has struggled loads,” Vidya Sagar says. “Bohot ganda waala wrestle.”

In November 2016, Prasad was battling for his life after a collarbone harm led to extreme problems. “It was so severe that earlier than the surgical procedure, docs obtained an enterprise signed from my father that mainly implied that if issues obtained sophisticated, he might even die,” Vidya Sagar says. “Thankfully, it went nicely. But for 7-8 days after the operation, he couldn’t eat a morsel. Those days had been a nightmare. But all through that part, Vivek was at all times smiling, by no means misplaced hope.”

He made a comeback in mid-2017. And then, after a exceptional rise, there was an much more exceptional drop in kind. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Prasad regarded a shadow of himself; so poor that he was instantly dropped from the nationwide crew.

Vidya Sagar says the comparisons with Sardar started to play on the-then teenager’s thoughts and the strain of expectations positioned on him obtained to him as nicely, main to a confidence disaster.

The stoop lasted for nearly a yr, a interval that noticed him return to the fundamentals. Prasad returned to the junior facet, main them to a podium end on the 2018 Youth Olympics and on the Sultan of Johor Cup in 2019. A string of constant performances paved the way in which for his return to the senior squad, of which Prasad is now an integral half.

“He’s in an excellent head area now,” Vidya Sagar says. “He was residence after the Olympics for some time, obtained refreshed after a protracted season, we performed quite a lot of chess and now he’s again on the sphere.” Where items are in place for him to make it massive.

It’s now Prasad’s transfer.

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