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London Lions: VR Raghunath: Ambitious trier; etern (7/3/2012)
--K. Arumugam
VR Raghunath: An ambitious trier and an eternal learner

One great thing about our defender Raghunath is he never gives up, even after so many coaches somehow under-estimated him, for too long. He kept his cool, migrated from Senior team to development one, never worried on the down gradation, and waited for his days. And it came in the form of Michael Nobbs, who retrieved him from oblivion, taking him in his army. He is now in London, and a year before a thought that would have elicited raised brows.

Born on November 1, 1988, VR Raghunath is one in a long line of illustrious hockey players from Coorg in Karnataka, one of the nurseries of Indian hockey in the country. However, it has not been an easy journey for the 23-year-old, as he has always had to fight for his place in the side, both as a defender and a penalty corner specialist.

undefined The burly defender made his first foray into the national side with the 2003 sub-junior Asia Cup in Dhaka, which India won. He made his senior international debut against Pakistan during the bi-lateral series in 2005, when he was just 17-years-old. However, he made headlines for the first time when he was drafted into the national side at the 2006 World Cup, as a replacement for Sandeep Singh who was accidentally shot just before leaving for the tournament. As an 18-year-old with limited international experience, Raghunath was played sparingly by coach Vasudevan Baskaran but managed to perform decently despite being up against the best in the world.

He was also part of the silver-winning SAF Games team and won bronze and silver in 2007 and 2008 editions of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. He was also part of the Indian team that won Asia Cup in 2007 at home.

However, he has had to struggle at every step to prove his worth. When he first broke into the scene in 2003, he was too raw and had to compete with the likes of Jugraj Singh – who was emerging as one of the most –feared drag-flickers in the world then before suffering a life-threatening accident. Later, when he finally made it to the senior side, he had to compete with Sandeep Singh, who was already an established name both on domestic and international circuits. As such, Raghunath always had to play second fiddle. His gaining a lot of weight did not help matters, till current coach Michael Nobbs decided to work on his fitness. He had to spend time away from the national side as well and that time with his employers Indian Oil in domestic tournaments helped Raghunath improve his tackling and defending skills and has helped him cement his place in the current national squad.

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