Interview with India International Hockey Player Tushar Khandker

Tushar Khandker is an Indian professional field hockey player who represented India in Men's Hockey during the 2012 London Olympics as player and 2016 Rio Olympics as coach.

Coming from a family of hockey players and also from the land of HOCKEY WIZARD, Major Dhyanchand, our national game has been running in his veins.

Tushar Khandker made his debut for India in 2003 when he was included in the Hockey Australia Challenge Cup. He was a part of the team that won the 2004 Junior Asia Cup and the 2007 Men's senior Asia Cup.

PHYSIOTIMES is proud to interview Tushar Khandker, the Indian Player in the field of Hockey who has won GOLD MEDAL in all Age Groups ( U-16, U-18, U-21 and Senior) in Asia Cup.

In a candid conversation with Anubha Singhai, Editor PHYSIOTIMES, Tushar speaks about his passion for Hockey, role of Physiotherapy, his fitness mantra, role as a coach and much more…….

1. Please let us know when did you start playing Hockey first and how were your early days of Hockey?

I started playing hockey very early, when I was 7 or 8 years old, because my father, uncle and brother also played the same. My early days were enjoyable. I just loved scoring goals and celebrating them. It helped that the sport was played in my family and I picked up the basics at an early age.

2. Tell us about your role model in early days and how did it influence you?

My earliest role models were obviously my father and uncle. The way they played and the accolades, the rewards and appreciation they got attracted me. At the same time, I also always wanted new hockey sticks and shoes, the Kit they used, and as a kid I felt that I would get them if I also played hockey.

3. When did you decide that you want to be a Hockey player?

As I said, I was very much influenced by my family playing the sport. I enjoyed it and soon I decided that, irrespective of the outcome, I would play and enjoy this game once I enter a hockey stadium.

4. Hockey being our national game, what do you need to say about the domestic structure of Hockey?

It can definitely be better in terms of infrastructure, facilities and providing the latest equipment and coaching to young kids. Development needs to be done at the grassroots, in schools and universities. It is very important to have a big pool of players and to provide them with all necessities. It is also important to have competitions for kids to learn and enjoy the game, without the pressure of winning always. Formation of a good team in any age group depends both on quality and quantity of good players. The current Indian team has a good bunch of players but this has to be replicated at all levels and to ensure fresh legs to represent the country at all times.

5. You are the Indian Hockey player who has won Gold in all age group (U-16, U-18, U-21 and SENIOR) in ASIA CUP. What’s the secret?

There is no secret. When you play for India you always want to win. The way to achieve that target is if you are committed, concentrated and consistent in your performance. Being part of a team game helps you grow as a team man, a family man and an overall development of a player’s personality.

6. How was it carrying the torch in 2012 London Olympics?

Olympic Games is a celebration of humanity where people from more than 200 countries come together with the common goal of representing and winning medals for their country. For me, it was a long journey that started in 2003. Unfortunately, we couldn’t qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and that’s when I set the 2012 Olympics as my goal. I decided to be physically and mentally prepared for that with the support of my family, coaching staff and teammates.

Your name and family is not something you choose but being an Olympian is an honour that you have to earn yourself.

7. What was the biggest challenge that you faced in your career as an eminent Hockey player?

When you start playing any sport, you dream of playing for the country but you never think of that as the first target. In the beginning, you only want basic facilities to play the sport and continue playing it and i.e. infrastructure, coaching, sticks and kit. I was lucky enough to get the kit and coaching at home itself but I struggled with infrastructure as there was no synthetic turf stadium in my city back then. Later, when I started playing seriously, I faced different challenges from time to time. But all those challenges only helped me grow as a player and become a better human being. 

Tushar Khandker with his Physiotherapists

8. Which has been your favourite Hockey moment?

Honestly, every moment I play hockey anywhere at any level is my favourite because I love it so much. It has been the most important part of my life from childhood. That said, a few special moments stand out as a professional player -- wearing the India jersey for the first time and representing India at the Olympics.

9. What do you think can be done to make Hockey more attractive? 

Honestly, hockey is already an attractive sport. The game timing has also now been shortened, it has become fast and there are more goals scored now than before which attracts more people. But most of it is at the top level. There still needs to be a lot more competition, both in quantity and quality,  all the way down to schools so that interest develops in players and general public at all levels and at an early stage. That will lead to further increase in viewership which will help the sport grow and ensure more rewards which the players deserve.

Experiences with Physiotherapy

10. Hockey being a contact sport presents with a lot of injuries, which common injuries did you experience in your career?

Injuries are an integral part of any hockey player’s life and career. Luckily, I have always had good strength and conditioning trainers with me and so suffered few injuries in my career. But no sportsperson can ever be truly injury-free. I too suffered recurrent hamstring strain but managed to get back on field fully fit every time with the help of my physiotherapists and trainers.

11. When did you first acknowledge the importance of a PHYSIOTHERAPIST in INDIAN HOCKEY TEAM?

Hockey is a tough sport and injuries to players are frequent. Having a physiotherapist in the team helped us play again with the same intensity and level and so a physio is always very important in a physical sport like hockey.

12. Can you recall working with different Physiotherapists in your career? How was the experience.

So far I have worked with quite a few physiotherapists but the one person I recall spending maximum time is Mr. Shrikant Iyengar, the former Indian Hockey Team Physiotherapist, who was always available for me 24x7. He was the main reason behind my largely injury-free international career. As a coach-cum-player on the domestic circuit also, I have interacted with several physiotherapists but I was very impressed with the way Mr. Abhinav Sathe (Sports Physiotherapist, Bhopal) treats his players.

*A special thanks to Mr. Jince Thomas Mathew (Physiotherapist, Bhopal) for taking care of me during Hockey India League.

13. Do you feel any difference in knowledge and expertise of our Indian Physios when compared to their Western counterparts?

Not really, I think Indian physiotherapists are equally good. But they do need to keep themselves updated with the latest in medical information and techniques being used around the world which will make them more proficient. It will also help Indian players get back on the field much more quickly following an injury. 

14. How has the training and guidance of PHYSIOS helped you to perform better?

I am thankful to all the physios who have ever worked with me at any stage. Their knowledge and experience has helped me stay fit over such a long period and recover well for training sessions and matches.

15. Can you please describe the training routine of a Hockey player?

It depends on a lot of things -- the age group, level of play and even the coach. Initial years involve single sessions which increases to two sessions a day as the level goes up. The sessions involve hockey training, strength & conditioning and a few psychological sessions which help in the overall development of a hockey player.

16. How important is diet in a Hockey player’s performance?

Not only in hockey, nutrition is very important in all sports, especially those where a lot of physical activity is required. The food which the player eats impacts his/her strength, training, performance and recovery right from a basic level.

17. What would you like to suggest to the young players that can help them maintain their cool during pressure?

Regardless of the sport, whenever you are playing in a tournament -- whether as a team or individually -- if people expect a good performance from you, it’s because they have faith in you. Use this faith to turn the pressure of expectation into positive energy that will make you achieve your target.

18. Do you feel proud being from the land (Jhansi) of THE WIZARD OF HOCKEY, MAJOR DHYANCHAND.

Of course. Being from the same city and playing hockey is a dream come true for me because my city is known for Laxmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi and Major Dhyanchand. I consider myself lucky that whenever people talk about hockey in Jhansi, my name is also included in the list that starts with Major Dhyanchand.

19. How do you like your role as the Coach?

I started coaching at an early age and have been a player-cum-coach for a long time for my team Bharat petroleum corporation limited. I really enjoy it and have learned a lot becoming a coach, things that have helped me to perform better as a player. I would love to share my experiences with young players who can play and bring laurels for the country.

20. What other interests do you have apart from Hockey?

I love gadgets and music and try to keep myself updated about the latest in both. I love driving around and exploring the countryside. I also follow cricket and specially love watching Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni Batting videos.

21. What is your Success Mantra? 

I am always happy but never satisfied with my achievements. I always look for improvement.

22. Your message to budding Physios...

The medical field is one where you live for others and your education keeps yourself ready to help your patients. Every sportsperson deal with both external injuries and internal problems, regardless of the level at which he plays, and a physio plays a big role in helping a player overcome both. So, I would only ask budding physiotherapists to be honest to your work and use this power of yours while treating any player, irrespective of his/her level of representation.

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