India`s women hockey captain Ashunta Lakra hardly imagined she would one day literally step into the shoes of her brother Bimal Larkra when she took the hockey international`s old pair of shoes to practice on the Astroturf ground here.
“I took my brother Bimal`s old pair as practising without a pair of good shoes can lead to injuries on Astroturf grounds,” Ashunta said.
“Those days it was difficult even to pay hostel fee regularly, let alone buying a pair of good shoes which cost about Rs 1000,” she said.
Giving credit to her international hockey playing brothers, Bimal and Birendra, for inspiring her to take the game, she made her debut with a bang when she became a part of the Indian under-18 girls team that lifted the Asia Cup in 2000.
Eleven years later, Ashunta has literally stepped into the shoes of her famous brothers going one step further to become the captain of the women`s national side.
Now the midfielder`s focus is on the six-nation tournament in Delhi as it is the last chance for her team to qualify for Olympics.
“We are ready and geared up to give our best in the tournament scheduled in February. Only the team finishing at the top can visit London for the 2012 games,” she said.
Ashunta`s march towards hockey glory was not honky-dory. “Like other tribal boys and girls in the rural areas (of Jharkhand), I used to play with bent bamboo stick in `Khashi` (goat as prize for the winning team) tournaments.”
“Then I joined the Bariatu Hockey Hostel in Ranchi. I had to take an old stick from one of my brothers during those difficult years,” Ashunta, who is doing her BA at the Gosner College in Ranchi, said.
“There is no short cut to success. One has to work hard if one wants to accomplish success in any sphere of life,” she said, but suggested that “No budding hockey player should endure such difficulties, and should be given sports kit at the beginning itself”.
She hails from Simdega`s Nangade village which borders Theshu Toli from where Sylvanus Dungdung went on to win Moscow Olympics gold medal as a member of the Indian hockey team in 1980.
“He (Dungdung) has been an inspirational figure for several hockey players from Jharkhand. We will be happy if his name is considered for Bharat Ratna,” she added.
Why does she want Dungdung to be recognised with the highest award?
“All of us started our career without any logistics, and played with bamboo sticks in local tournaments making our efforts all the more commendable. Besides, hockey can attract the present generation,” she argues.
Dungdung joins to say, “During our days, we friends use to fetch wood from the forest, bent it and dried it to play Khashi tournaments.”
“When we use to return homes tired and hungry, our parents asked us to serve ourselves with bamboo stick and ball for dinner. Still we loved the sport which fetched us laurels later on,” he added.