Satish Sharma

Hockey India announced 18 member women team for the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 to be played at Santiago (Chile) from 29th November. Odisha contributed a big slice in it in the form of five players and as usual all the five girls come from the tribal dominated Sundargarh district. But what is unusual in this that not all the girls belong to tribal community.

One girl belongs to Gorkha community. This is the perhaps first time that a Gorkha girl would be donning Indian jersey in an international hockey tournament. The girl is 20 year talented midfielder Jyoti Chhatri. On her selection in the team she said,” I am delighted to be a part of this team. I am looking forward to play in the championship and give my best to help our team to podium finish.

Hockey came to her in natural way as her house is only stone’s throw away from the famous hockey player producing centre of the state -Panposh Hockey Hostel. Daughter of a Rajmistry (Mason) Bhim Singh, she used to see the young boys and girls practicing hockey at the sports hostel. This attracted her towards the sport. In fact her eldest brother, Suraj Chhatri, was the first to pick up the stick, inspiring Jyoti to follow in his footsteps.

“My brother inspired and pushed me to go for the trials at the Panposh hostel” said Jyoti. Initially, my parents didn’t like me playing hockey but the coaches persuaded my family members to let me play hockey professionally,” she recounted. In 2014 she got enrolled in the hockey hostel.  She would get accommodation, food, equipment and a playing kit besides coaching for free was an added attraction.

Knowing that this was her only chance to give herself and her family a better life, Jyoti, who trained to become a midfielder, gave it her all. She did not disappoint her parents as soon she made her way into the state team to play in the national level tournaments.

Her first coach Florencia Ekka talking about Jyoti’s initial years says,” She was very hardworking and good learner from the beginning. Looked determined to excel in the game. She has already become a part of junior national team. I hope she will grow as a player and create a place for herself in senior team.”

The turning point in her career came in 2020 when she joined the Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre, Bhubaneswar.  From here on, there was no looking back for Jyoti, who went on to secure a spot in the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team after her impressive performances in the junior national championship.

She made her debut in 2022 when she was selected to play in a U-23 five nation tournament held at Dublin (Ireland). Indian team won silver medal. In current year she toured South Africa. She was also part of the team which won Women’s Junior Asia Cup- held in Japan. Her impressive performances with the junior teams brought promotion for her. Jyoti made the jump to the Indian Women’s Hockey Team in July 2023, which toured Germany and Spain.  Her fast-paced growth itself is a testimony of her brilliance which propelled her to the senior level.

Rajiv Seth, Director, Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre, sharing his opinion said, “Jyoti has been a very gutsy and large hearted woman player for us and has grown into a mature player in last 2 years. Her tenacity is her strength; I see good future for her national team”.

Now she is ready to sparkle in FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. Jyoti is confident of putting on a good show in Santiago (Chile). “we are a strong team. During the Women’s Junior Asia Cup, we improved game by game. In the world cup also we will play with the same confidence and try for podium finish. I have to fulfill my papa’s dream as well”, she concluded.

(The author is a Sr. Sports Journalist from Rourkela, India)