The history of professional sports is laden with remarkable stories of athletes enduring tragedy and difficult choices to come out on top. In 2006, when the Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli was playing a Ranji Trophy match for Delhi against Karnataka, news came in that his father had passed away.
Given a choice between cremating his father and batting for Delhi, which was reeling under a difficult situation, a young Virat chose the latter and scored a match-winning 90 to save the Test match for his side.
Krishan Pathak, who is currently the second-choice goalkeeper for the Indian team in the upcoming Asian Games, has a similar story to tell.
Pathak’s father, Tek Bahadur, was a crane operator in Kapurthala, Punjab, who had left his home in Nepal to offer his family a better life. It was a struggle for the future Team India goalie, and he, in fact, helped his father move debris at construction sites helping his family earn that extra bit of money.
Pathak’s mother had passed when he was 12 and before he turned 20, he lost his father to a heart attack just two days before his maiden international tournament—a seven-match series against the England junior team, which was essentially a preparation for the 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup slated to take place six months later.
“My life has been uncertain so far. I am an orphan now. I have no one waiting for me at home. I am not sure if I have a place, which I can call home. I have suffered so many setbacks in my life; had it not been for hockey, I may have landed in the clutches of drugs,” Pathak told the Times of India, ahead of the Asian Games scheduled to begin later this week.
In the hardest decision Pathak has ever had to make, he chose to fly out with the team and skip his father’s last rites even though the then junior team coach Harendra Singh had allowed him to leave and assured that his starting spot in the side wasn’t in jeopardy.
“That was very difficult, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. I called my uncle and my sisters who live in Nepal. They didn’t force me to return. In fact, they assured me that I should stay on and play for India. Harendra Sir gave me permission to go home, but I wanted to show my mettle.”
Six months later, India became the Junior Hockey World Champion. This indeed proves that Pathak has real character, passion and desire to not just represent India, but also prove himself on the world stage at such a difficult time in his life.
Speaking to the Times of India, Harendra, who is now the coach of the senior side, said, “I told him to go and assured him that his place in the team won’t be in jeopardy, but he said ‘Sir, my father wanted me to represent India.’ That time, I realised he is mentally very tough, and a warrior. The coach has high regards for Krishan. His reflexes are brilliant, and the kid has an immense hunger to improve his game. He is definitely one for the future.”
Today, he lives in Kapurthala with his uncle, Chandra Pathak, in a rented accommodation, which is a small room with a roof made of asbestos. Even though the Punjab government had promised Rs 25 lakh for each player who had helped India win the 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup, none of that money has arrived. Pathak, meanwhile, wants a build a home for himself with that amount.
“I stay with my uncle; he also lives in a rented accommodation. I wish to have a house of my own. The amount that was promised would have been really useful but, these things are not in our hands” said India’s back-up goalkeeper for the Asian Games.
Until then his focus is on the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)