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HIL Here and There: When Chess met hockey (2/7/2017)
--Tazeen Qureshy
When Chess met hockey: The Kalinga Stadium has been hailed by many, including national and international hockey players, for the huge crowd it draws everytime during the match. From sports lovers to school students and even live match debutants, the crowd in Bhubaneswar has lived up to the expectations of the hockey fraternity. On Sunday, when hosts played against Uttar Pradesh Wizards, there was a very special guest on the stands, enjoying every bit of the game. undefined Padmini Rout, a chess player and a big sports icon in Odisha was cheering out as the teams lined up for the match. “It is the first time I am here to watch any live physical sport. So far, I have only seen live chess games. This is my first-ever live match,” said Rout, who is an International Master and Woman Grandmaster. “I have not really followed hockey much. Hopefully, I will after watching this match live.” Strangely while everyone expected Kalinga Lancers to be her obvious choice of support, she surprised everyone as she cheered equally for both teams. “VR Raghunath, the skipper of UP Wizards is my colleague at Indian Oil. So, I want Raghunath to play well and also Kalinga Lancers. I am supporting both teams,” she reveals.

MEDIA ROOM: While there has been much talk about cricket versus hockey every time, the two warring sports were once again on the battlefield, this time at the media room of the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. As the match between the Lancers and the UP Wizards clashed with the T20 cricket match between India and England, a few journalists took the TV remote and changed the channel where the cricket match was being telecast.It was only after a lady journalist gave a piece of mind to the rest, the channel was changed and the no one dared to touch the remote once again.

undefined Disappointed Crowd: The crowd at Kalinga Stadium has turned up every time, despite the performance of the home team Kalinga Lancers. But, it looks that the fans ran out of patience after the dismal 10-0 loss to UP Wizards. Post-production match, when the players kneeled down for stretching, a few people in the crowd jeered, “Now, hold your ears and apologize.” The players, busy in their exercises , perhaps didn’t hear it or chose to ignore.

Winning it the 'Pakhala' way: Fans have their own way of showering the love in their favourites and it can get crazier sometimes. The same happened when a housewife in the crowd was asked her opinion on how the team can improve. Without thinking much, she quickly retorted, they need 'Pakhala ' For those who don't know, pakhala is the native Odia dish. Also known as 'Rice water,' it is mostly consumed during summer season. Nutritionists of Kalinga Lancers, are you listening?

Performance Matters: While the crowd at Kalinga Stadium is undoubtedly favouring the home team, good players are hailed irrespective of their team. So, even though Kalinga Lancers lost 0-10 against UP Wizards, the crowd applauded and cheered for India skipper PR Sreejesh after the match. A humble player that he is, Srejesh didn't disappoint the crowd and waved and thanked t hem for their unconditional support.

Mr Dependable: Ever since the Kalinga Lancers team was formulated in the Hockey India League in 2014, Devinder Walmiki has been one of the few constants in the franchise which has seen much overhaul in the last three years. The younger of the Walmiki brothers, he has dealt with everything- from the team finishing at the bottom of the pool to becoming the finalists last year. While the Lancers continue to give a good run to the other teams this year, Devinder can be touted as the ‘Mr Dependable’ of the Lancers. undefined “I have been one of the players, who has been with the franchise since the very beginning. I have seen the team lose and recover and was part of the whole process for building this team. Now, it has become a home. This crowd supports me like I am one of their own,” Devinder sums up his journey with the Lancers. On his role in the team, he says he plays on the directions of the coach who keeps on rotating his position as per need. “Our coach (Mark Hager) is doing a lot of experimentation. As far as I am concerned, he keeps me on the forward line at times, as I have a good shot on the goal post. I also have a good run, for which I play as the midfielder. Sometimes, I do a bit of work in the defense also,” he explains. “Whatever role he is given to me, I try to mould myself into it.” Devinder, who has been a part of both the success and failures of the team, however, refrains to give details on the team’s chances this season. “We had started well. The players became tired in the middle. It is part of the game. We will have to keep looking back at our performance and chalk out the way ahead.”

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