A tribute to Tirkey

P.V. SIVAKUMAR

Olympic Captain: Dilip Tirkey by K. Arumugam; Field Hockey Publications; 13/330, DDA Flats, Madangir, New Delhi 110062; Rs. 120.

Saunamara. It is almost impossible to spot this hamlet in the map of India. Nestling amidst the tribal areas of Sundargarh District in Orissa, this village today has acquired an identity, and often gets mentioned in the media. Why? Because this is the place of birth of Indian hockey captain, Dilip Tirkey.

The rise to the top of the unassuming Tirkey illustrates the avenues that are open for one with talent and willing to persevere. Born on November 25, 1977, into a lower middle-class family, Tirkey proved his credentials in almost every grade of hockey to reach Olympian heights and to emerge the first Adivasi captain of Independent India. He was the youngest Olympian when capped at Atlanta in 1996.

In a country where biographies of sportspersons other than cricketers are almost non-existent, it is heartening to see the endeavour of writers like K. Arumugam projecting personalities such as Dilip Tirkey and Dhanraj Pillay and detailing their achievements. Both the players have figured in over 300 internationals. There is a definite case to document the contribution of Adivasis to the ebb and flow of Indian sport in various disciplines, hockey in particular. That the first captain of the Indian Olympic team in 1928 was an Adivasi studying in Oxford has been mentioned repeatedly, but the second has emerged only at the end of that century.

Dilip Tirkey's progress included several defining moments that included his selection into the junior squads, training in NIS Patiala under coach A. K. Basal, a job opportunity at Railway Coach Factory, Kapurtala, Punjab, and deserving recognitions such as the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award.

Starting his career as an inside forward, Dilip Tirkey developed into a sharp defender to match wits with the biggest names in contemporary hockey. A gold medal at the Bangkok Asian Games, Kuala Lumpur Asia Cup, and in the SAF Games at Hyderabad are moments to cherish for Tirkey, as are the several other contests in which he inspired India to momentous victories.

The author needs to be complimented for the research and assimilation of details to thread an interesting narration. There are over 60 photographs in the 143-page book, which is a worthy addition to any sports library. — S. Thyagarajan