Indian hockey failed one of its brightest stars in Rajiv Mishra even before his rise in 1998, thanks to injury mismanagement and sheer neglect of him on the part of the national federation that ran the game then.
And, Rajiv’s chapter finally came to an end on Wednesday night when the former India junior forward was found dead at his residence in Sarsauli area of Varanasi under mysterious circumstances.
He was 46. He is survived by his wife and two children.
“Rajiv’s untimely death is a big setback for Indian hockey. He was an exceptional hockey player with extraordinary skills,” his childhood coach Prem Shanker Shukla said.
According to sources, Rajiv might have died a few days back and it was his neighbours who informed the police after a foul smell started to come out of his house.
Rajiv, considered the next big thing in Indian hockey then, used to stay alone as he was posted as chief inspector of ticket (CIT) with Northern Railway’s Lucknow Division at Varanasi.
Rajiv, who hails from Leeludabait village in Hajipur in Bihar, was famous for his curly long hair, tied in a bandana, and once had a huge fan base after his heroics at the 1997 Junior World Cup in London.
It was Shukla who brought Rajiv to Varanasi from Kolkata at the age of 13 after Kolkata’s Entally Athletic Club head Asim Ganguly requested him to help the young player.
“Rajiv was just a normal hockey player when I enrolled him in the SAI hostel in Varanasi, but he worked hard and honed his skills and rose to extraordinary levels in a short span of time,” Shukla said.
Shukla also recalled Rajiv’s exploits in the Junior World Cup in London, where he scored a diving goal against Germany in the semifinal.
India lost the Junior World Cup final 2-3 to Australia but Rajiv stood out with nine goals in the tournament. But his booming career suffered a setback just before the 1998 (senior) World Cup in Utrecht, the Netherlands when he sustained a career-ending knee injury following a body clash with the then Indian goalkeeper AB Subbiah.
A miss-managed rehabilitation following a surgery and lack of support from the then Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) finally drew curtains on a promising career as a frustrated Rajiv took to drinks for solace and could never come out of that.
Shukla said Indian hockey would not have lost a star if the now-banned IHF had backed Rajiv during his tough phase in 1998.
“The IHF didn’t support Rajiv at all. They just disowned him after his injury. They never took care of his medical bills or anything. He just went into oblivion. No one cared for him and in the process we lost a star in the making,” the coach said.
Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey condoled the sad demise of Rajiv.
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Rajiv Mishra, a talented former Junior International Hockey player. His passion and dedication to the sport were truly inspiring. My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and the entire hockey community,” Tirkey tweeted.