BENGALURU: The Indian men’s hockey team will begin its journey in the FIH Pro League, following a 13-month pandemic-induced break, with the Argentina leg of the League, slated on April 10 and 11.
This is also the beginning of an uncertain yet crucial phase for the team. India are scheduled to face Great Britain, Spain and Germany in away contests before heading home to Bhubaneswar for the last leg against New Zealand on May 29 and 30. But with the surge in Covid-19 cases across the world, they will have to take one leg of the schedule at a time.
In this background and with less than four months left for the Tokyo Olympics, there are more questions than answers surrounding the team. Among the primary queries are the future of ace striker SV Sunil and the return of players who had tested positive for Covid-19 recently.
Sunil, 31, among the senior most players in the squad, has been left out in the cold for the second consecutive competition. He failed to make the cut for the Europe tour recently and finds himself out of the roster for the Argentina sojourn. In the 14th year of his international career, Sunil finds himself at the crossroads and going by the team selections for the past couple of tournaments, it looks unlikely that he will make the cut to Tokyo.
Sunil, who has been part of the camp at SAI, South Centre since March last year, may walk into the sunset much like most players in the past, who have not been allowed the dignity of a farewell game.
India’s chief coach Graham Reid conceded he had a conversation with Sunil but was unwilling to dwell on it.
Speaking to TOI on Tuesday, he said: “My stand (about the future) has been discussed with the athlete and I don’t like to bring that up into the public. Someone like Sunil provides very good experience to the younger players coming in (to the squad). They give a lot to the game and are great. You would never write someone off like that.”
PLAYERS RECOVERING FROM COVID-19
Three players in the team – Rupinder Pal Singh, Vivek Sagar and Gurjant Singh — which departs in the wee hours of Wednesday, recovered from Covid-19 recently. It comes as a surprise that players, who have resumed training just a few ago, are back in the squad and will make the journey of about 30 hours to Buenos Aires.
According to medical experts, gradual initiation into training is advised before they take the field of play.
“The recovery varies from one individual to another. It depends on how much they were infected and how they have recovered. The path back to training and competition has to be graded and supervised,” opined Dr KS Satish, noted pulmonologist.
India squad: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Shilanand Lakra, Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh, Shamsher Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Raj Kumar Pal, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Manpreet Singh (C), Hardik Singh, Jaskaran Singh, Birendra Lakra, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh (VC), Gurinder Singh and Amit Rohidas.