I am inspired by Harmanpreet Singh: Nilam Sanjeep Xess

FOR 18-YEAR-OLD Nilam Sanjeep Xess from a little known village called Kadobahal near Bargarh district in Odisha, making a debut in this year’s Coal India Hockey India League means a great deal. 
While it brings monetary gains, as he was recruited into the Kalinga Lancers camp for a sum of USD 3000, the Coal India HIL will also boost his game as he needs to carry forward the momentum set-up by the Junior World Cup winning team. Sandeep, who captained the Indian team at the U18 Asia Cup held in Dhaka last year, stated,

“This is a huge opportunity for me. While I am very nervous to play against such top players in Coal India HIL, I am aware this exposure will make a lot of difference to my game."

 Sanjeep comes from a humble family with his parents making a living by working in a farm for daily wages. With two sisters and a brother, Sanjeep being the last-born child, picking up hockey meant that he would find a route to improve financial situation back home. 

He first picked up the hockey stick as a five-year-old as hockey is popular tribal regions of Attabira tehsil where he hails from in Odisha. He then joined the Sundargarh Sports Hostel in 2010 before moving to SAI in Rourkela. Sandeep said,

“The money (approx Rs 2 lakh) from Coal India HIL will help me buy a kit and shoes. I also want to send some money for my parents as it will help them a great deal. I am very excited on starting the camp. It is slowly starting to sink in that I will be playing with senior players. I got to meet Devinder Walmiki, Pardeep Mor, Lalit Upadhyay and Dharamvir Singh from the senior squad at the camp on Tuesday. I also keep in regular touch with Birendra Lakra and Dipsan Tirkey (both from Odisha) to understand the challenges in Coal India HIL and how I can keep calm. They motivate me a lot."

Sanjeep made his India debut at the 12th South Asian Games last year in Guwahati, Assam. He was also part of the Junior India World Cup probable’s camp in SAI, South Centre in Bengaluru. He added,

“That camp was very useful for me though I didn’t make it to the team. I am a defender and dragflicker and I got to practice a lot with Harmanpreet Singh and worked on my technique. He is extremely good at dragflicking and he motivates me a lot. The Junior World Cup win is a big inspiration for youngsters like me and I wish to emulate the team’s success in the future tournaments."

Kalinga Lancers play their first match on January 22 against Delhi Waveriders in Bhubaneswar.     

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