Indian-origin Priyesh Bhana debuts for New Zealand hockey team

January 31st, 2009 - 7:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Jan 30 (IANS) Dipak Patel and Jeetan Patel played for New Zealand in cricket, and now Priyesh Bhana, also of Indian origin, made his international debut for the national hockey team in the four-nation Punjab Gold Cup tournament here Saturday against India.Born and brought up in Auckland, Bhana’s ancestors hailed from Machaad in Gujarat and he is planning to visit his ancestral village.

“I have plans to go to Gujarat and see my village where my grandparents lived but it all depends on my schedule. However, I would try my best to visit there as I do not know when I would again get a chance to tour India again,” the player told IANS.

“International debut is undoubtedly a special moment for any player in any sport but for me it is more exciting as I am going to debut against India where my grandparents lived.”

Although this is his first visit to India, Bhana is in love with his ancestral country.

“I love this country very much. I found that people here are very hospitable and caring. I really like to learn more about Indian culture especially about Gujarat that is my home state,” he said.

Talking about his game, Bhana said: “I believe in an attacking game and I have also made a special strategy for the series. I will disclose it once I am on the field.”

He picked up the game at the age of four. Later it was his elder brother Dharmesh who inspired him to turn pro.

A consistent performance for the North Harbour team in the domestic circuit earned him a national call for this tournament.

“Now I am looking forward to perform well in this series and to cement my permanent place in the national team,” he said.

He feels that the tournament will be crucial in shaping his career.

“It would be the right platform for me to start my career in international hockey by playing against Olympic champions Germany and European champions The Netherlands. I would certainly learn so many things from this series and would emerge as a better player from here,” said Bhana.

New Zealand was the late replacement for Pakistan, who pulled out from this series because of tension prevailing between the two nations following the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai. New Zealand has come here with six new faces as some of their regular players were engaged in other tournaments.

Coach Shane McLeod is also hopeful of a good show from Bhana.

“He is a hard-working player and this is a good opportunity for him to prove his worth and talent. I am impressed to see his speed and fitness level and think that he can serve the national team for long,” he said.

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