When limited-over cricket’s first double hundred was born in the erstwhile imperial outpost of Gwalior—the vestiges of regal majesty still intact and where you would befriend a million princely tales of courage and charisma—Shivendra Singh was scrupulously preparing for the 2010 World Cup, 320-odd km beyond it in Delhi. Though by no means a cricket devotee, there was a sense of pride in him that his hometown witnessed a landmark of such splendid enormity.
A few days later, he himself made Gwalior proud, smearing a spectacular goal against Pakistan in the opening fixture. His joy was fleeting though, as he was handed out a four-match ban for deliberately elbowing a Pakistani play, before it was reduced to two. Shivendra returned, but by this time India peeling through the exit door.
Nonetheless, Shivendra demonstrated his opportunism and effervescence in equal measure, and thereafter has been India’s first-choice centre forward, their baton-bearer inside the opposition arc. Fleet on foot, his ability to dupe his markers and thrust in, and ruffle the net with unrelenting accuracy indicates makes his stuff world-class.
The Olympics is an ideal podium to further his stakes. “I’m obviously pumped up for the event. After the World Cup, this is undoubtedly the biggest event of my life. There is real pressure but I will channelise it in a positive manner. The whole team is looking forward to making an impact,” told Shivendra, before leaving to France.
Though the Olympic qualifier wasn’t his most productive tournament, he rekindled his touch soon after, scoring in nearly every fixture. “I was returning from an injury and hence was rusty. But I have worked up my way gradually and have almost reached my peak form. I watched a few of my old videos and corrected a couple of technical glitches. I discussed those at length with the coaches,” said Shivendra, who is closing in on 150 senior caps.
According to him, coherence is India’s forte. “Of course, we have a lot of world-class players in our side but the key to our recent successes has been our team work and bonding. On and off the field, we complement and back each other. If we show such unity, we can spring a few surprises. We are not far behind of bigger teams” he averred.