From running away from training to CWG bronze, Nikki Pradhan has come a long way

from running away from training to cwg bronze, nikki pradhan has come a long way

From running away from training to CWG bronze, Nikki Pradhan has come a long way

Former India player Pushpa Pradhan’s story of flying on a plane to US got her hooked to the game, reveals childhood coach Dashrath Mahato

The Indian women’s hockey team won a medal at Commonwealth Games for the first time in 16 years when they earned a bronze after beating New Zealand in the third-place match in Birmingham on Sunday.

Playing a big role in the team’s success were three players from Jharkhand – Nikki Pradhan, Salima Tete and Sangita Kumari.

While Sangita broke into the team this year, Nikki, who belongs to Hesar village in Khunti district, has been with the senior team since 2016 and was the first hockey player from the state to take part in Olympics, when the women’s team qualified for Rio Olympics after a gap of 36 years.

And playing a huge role in Nikki’s rise has been Dashrath Mahato, who was an assistant teacher at Pilaul Middle School where she studied from the age of five. It was under him that Nikki got her first training, but she wasn’t hard working at first.

“She used to always run away while training. When her elder sister – Shashi Pradhan – started playing well, they started competing together at village tournaments. It gave her some motivation but even during those matches, when the ball used to come to her, she used to throw away the stick and run away,” said Mahato, who is now an executive member of Jharkhand Hockey after retirement.

However, things changed after former India player Pushpa Pradhan – also from Hesar – visited their school in 1999.

“We had arranged a felicitation programme and Pushpa spoke about her journey to New Jersey by flight and that struck a chord with Nikki. After the function, she came up to me and said, ‘Is she telling the truth? Did she really ride an aeroplane and go to the US?'” the coach reminisced.

From then on, she took the game seriously and later joined Bariatu Girls’ Hockey Centre in 2004. But after passing out, she had to leave the hostel and it was around this time that things got a bit difficult for her.

“She had to leave the hostel in 2009. The principal then made arrangements for her inside the campus itself. Mother used to send rice and other food materials and she used to prepare her own food,” said Nikki’s elder sister Sashi, who also played hockey for Bihar and Jharkhand and now works as a ticket checker at Hatia railway station since 2009.

The 2011 Jharkhand National Games then changed everything. “She played brilliantly during the tournament and that helped her to get a call-up to the national camp in 2012,” added Mahato.

After that she made it to the senior team in 2016 and has never looked back. She was part of the Women’s Asia Cup-winning team in 2017. She was also part of the silver medal-winning campaigns at Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang as well as Women’s Asian Champions Trophy in 2018.

But what was still missing was a medal at a major event and that troubled her a lot. Nikki had even told her sister during a recent conversation, “Luck hasn’t been favouring us. The girls have been playing well but still we haven’t been able to win. We are a bit afraid, but we want to win a medal this time around.”

And they have done exactly that.

Although Shashi could watch only half of the game, she is immensely proud of what her sister has achieved. “This was a tough match and against the defending champions. This bronze is equal to a gold medal,” said Sashi, who also trained at Bariatu Girls’ Hockey Centre.

While her happiness knows no bounds, she is a bit sad that there’s still not enough facilities in their village to play the game that they love so much.

“Players want to play but still there isn’t any ground in the village. There’s one coming up in the district. If we have to play, we play on normal grounds or the road itself,” she told TOI during a telephonic conversation.

Meanwhile, Hockey Simdega president Manoj Konbeji said Jharkhand Hockey Association will give a special welcome to all the three players and a special event will be held in their honour.

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