During the 5th Sub-Junior Hockey India National Championship 2015 (Women) Division B at Ranchi last month, two forwards were seen making inroads into opposition halves constantly. While 16-year-old Manisha would manage the left flank, 16-year-old Poonam would manage the right flank in the forward line. The duo would go on to score a total of 38 goals between themselves to guide the Chandigarh sub-junior team to a bronze medal in the national championships.
Manisha and Poonam, who are trainees of the Chandigarh Hockey Academy, Sector 18, are seen as two of the most promising players in Chandigarh hockey and with 20 goals, Manisha leads the pack. Poonam too is not far behind, having scored 18 goals in the nationals.
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“I did not keep a count of the goals scored by us in the nationals. That’s not my job. My job was to score goals and that’s what we did. Before the championship, we wanted to win a medal for Chandigarh and that’s what we have done. Playing in summers and that too in a place like Ranchi was tough for us and we are happy that we did it. I shifted from Hisar to Chandigarh to train at the academy and back home, my family too is proud of our achievement,” said Manisha, whose father, Ajeet Gill, is ASI in Hisar.
Poonam and Manisha joined the Chandigarh Hockey Academy four years ago and the two have been a constant feature in the Chandigarh team at the national level.
The duo played a stellar role in Chandigarh’s third-place finish in the sub-junior nationals last year as well and they propelled Chandigarh to a historic silver medal in the prestigious Nehru Cup in October last year.
Manisha’s father, Ramesh Kumar, is a small-time farmer in Hansi and the youngster had to opt to live in Hisar because it would be cheaper.
She scored seven goals on the way to Chandigarh’s bronze medal in the sub-junior national championships in Pune last year.
“I had to stay at my maternal grandmother’s village due to my love for hockey. And when I heard about the trials in Chandigarh, I opted for them. Last year’s Nehru Cup performance boosted my confidence and scoring goals motivate me a lot. I play on the right flank and it’s been an encouraging experience, along with Poonam who scores on the left flank. Our coach, Rajendra sir, has been very supportive of our endeavours and we have learnt a lot from him,” said Manisha, who, like Poonam, is a student of Class XI in Government Model School, Sector 18.
The duo has also met members of the Indian senior men and women’s team and want to make a mark at the senior level as well.
“Monica Malik, who is from our academy plays for the senior national team and we often seek inputs from her,” says Manisha.
“We often ask seniors about how to score more goals. Indian men’s team drag-flicker Rupinder Pal is also from the city and he also offers us tips on scoring goals. We dream about wearing a senior national team T-shirt,” Poonam adds.
The CHA team left for Manali for a high altitude camp on Tuesday and coach Rajendra believes that the duo can go the distance at the senior level.
“Poonam is quick and her strength is her swiftness. She has the confidence to score goals consistently. Manisha, on the other hand, is technically strong and she makes swift movements in the forward line. This performance will give them a lot of confidence. Yes, they can make it to the national team but they need more exposure. Maybe a selection in the national camp will motivate them for bigger things,” said Rajendra Singh, their coach at Chandigarh Hockey Academy.