CHENNAI: Two thousand and sixteen was a great year for SV Sunil. Of that there is no doubt. Such were his performances that despite a wrist injury suffered in a Pool B game against Canada at the Rio Olympics, one that kept him out of action till the Hockey India League at the beginning of this year, he was awarded the Asian Hockey Federation’s Player of the Year for 2016. And it was quite a surprise for him.
“I didn’t expect to win the award at all, to be honest. The injury kept me out for around five months. But it was a good feeling to have been bestowed with that award, and the hope is that I can recapture that form for my country ahead of an important run of events,” the 28-year-old told Express on Monday.
The recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, where India finished third, has been in the news for the country’s mixed performances.
Such has been the nature of criticism that Sunil is one of the players to have come under fire. And the forward accepts that he could have done better.
“I know what I’m capable of, and what I displayed in Malaysia wasn’t to the best of my abilities. But people have to understand that this was my first event for India since the injury, and just the second after playing for Punjab Warriors. I’ve slowly been getting back into the groove, and I can assure you that come the next event, I’ll be back to my best.”
The crucial game against Malaysia, where the Indians needed to win by two goals or at least 2-1, didn’t go to plan. And Sunil knows that forwards didn’t pull their weight during a clutch situation. “We missed around eight penalty corners in that game, which will surely cost any team in such a competitive event. But yes, the forwards, including myself, didn’t make use of whatever chances came our way. It is our job to score goals and make sure the team comes out on top, for it’s written in stone that goals win you games.
“Even if we had converted a few 50-50 chances, it would’ve helped. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but we know that we need to work on that when we get back together at the camp,” he noted.
The next 18 months are crucial for the men, what with the World Cup set to take place in December next year, in Bhubaneswar. Their next event will be the 3 Nations Invitational Tournament from June 1 to 6 in Dusseldorf, Germany. With the other two teams being Rio Olympics bronze and silver winners Germany and Belgium, respectively, it will be interesting to see how the men’s team fares.