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Back in action from a prolong injury lay-off, ace Indian defender Birendra Lakra says the upcoming Hockey India League (HIL) will mark a new beginning for him ahead of the busy interntional calendar.
Lakra will spearhead the backline of Ranchi Rays along side Kothajit Singh, Fergus Kavanagh and Timothy Deavin of Australia.
“I am ready for the challenge. This year’s Coal India HIL will be a new beginning for me and I really want to make this opportunity count,” Lakra said.
“Gaining match practice against so many top players going into an important calendar year for Indian team is crucial for me,” said Lakra, who missed out on the Rio Olympics due to a ligament injury and was out of action for over six months lst year.
Lakra made a strong comeback into the Indian team at the Asian Champions Trophy in October last year.
“The results at the Asian Champions Trophy and the tour of Australia was a great confidence booster for me. After a long lay-off due to injury, it takes a while to gain back the confidence of playing high intensity matches. At the back of your head, you are thinking I shouldn’t get injured again.
“But my teammates, physio and coaches gave me a lot of confidence and motivated me throughout this difficult phase. Hockey India too made me feel important by ensuring I got the best treatment,” Lakra stated.
“I have worked a lot ahead of this year’s HIL. I am confident of putting up a good show to stay in contention for a place in the Indian camp in March,” he added.
The Ranchi Rays team arrived in Mumbai on January 15 and since have been training at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium where they play their first match against Dabang Mumbai on the opening day of the HIL on January 21.
Lakra feels the Ranchi outfit has great potential to lift the trophy this year.
“We have a strong line-up and many of us in the team have played together for a while so we understand each other’s game well. Having junior Indian team players (Vikramjit Singh and Simranjeet Singh) who are carrying the confidence from their Junior World Cup win will also make a difference to our team,” he said.
“Thus far, the training camp has been going well and the team is enjoying. It will be special if we can repeat our 2013 and 2015 performance,” said Lakra.