CHENNAI: Sometime after last year’s men’s hockey World Cup, SV Sunil had contemplated quitting the sport. He was already in a dark place, so he wanted to put himself out of misery. It was during the time “I was depressed, on crutches, had months of rehab ahead and missed my second home World Cup.”It’s been some journey from then for the 30-year-old, who was named vice-captain for the side’s two-legged Olympic qualifier against Russia in Bhubaneswar. Last October, after suffering a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) tear in his left knee during a training session, Sunil was counting his days down. Exactly a year later, it has given him a different perspective on life.
Sunil calls it “unbelievable”, but says that it was all down to the “hard yards I have put in over the last 10 months”. “I definitely wouldn’t have been here if not for the help I received from family, friends and coaches. They convinced me that I still had hockey in me. I am glad I listened to them.”
The early days of rehab were tough, but the Kodagu native toughed it out, knowing that he still had a window to make it count. “You know how rehab is, right? It’s tough. You don’t get to hit. Most days, you don’t even see your teammates. It’s just you, the gym and the support staff if you are lucky. It can all get very lonely very quickly.” It was during this time that his wife and close friends reminded Sunil about how much hockey meant to him.
Instead of wallowing in self pity, Sunil decided to go through rehab and followed all of his doctor’s orders. A few months later, he started enjoyed running again with the stick. But that was the easy bit.Sunil still had to convince the management that he was worthy of a spot. The Olympic test event in Japan came at the right time. After impressing there and in Belgium, they were convinced that Sunil was back to his best. It’s something he himself believes. “I’m very happy with the way I have been playing in the last few months. I am right now very close to where I was before I suffered the injury. Pace wise, movement wise. I think I am there.”
Looking ahead to the two-legged tie, Sunil didn’t give much away. “Looking at rankings, there is a big gap, yes. But be it Russia or Australia, we do not want to take matches lightly. We will be preparing the same way. Every team is dangerous and we are well aware of the threat they pose.”
Another player who missed the World Cup but figures in the scheme of things here is Rupinderpal Singh. Midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad, who led the men’s 5s to a silver at the Youth Olympics last year, also finds a place. “After a good preparation tour in Belgium, it was always going to be a very difficult decision to pick the best 18 players for this tournament. We have chosen a well-balanced side with a number of good, flexible options,” is what coach Graeme Reid had to say about the team composition.
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak.
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Amit Rohidas.
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (C), Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, SV Sunil (VC).
Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh.
Goalkeepers: Savita (VC), Rajani Etimarpu.
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar, Salima Tete, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Nikki Pradhan.
Midfielders: Monika, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Namita Toppo, Rani Rampal (C).
Forwards: Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur, Sharmila Devi.