May 30, 2013 1:03:58 am
With spotting his name in the list of standbys for the Asian Champions Trophy last December,Shivendra Singh wondered if he would be selected for India again. It was natural for the doubts to creep in; watching untested youngsters taking his place in the national team wasn’t easy. On Wednesday,Shivendra got the lucky break he so desired.
The 29-year-old striker has been named in the 18-member team for the World League semifinals,which will be held in Rotterdam,Holland,from June 13-23. It’s the first time he’s made the cut since India’s disastrous campaign at the London Olympics last year. Shivendra,though,is treating this as his first ever tournament for India. “That’ll be my approach. I will play in Holland as if it’s my debut tournament for India; with all the energy. I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and hopefully I’ll be able to make the most of it,” he says.
And he ought to. According to those in the know,Shivendra’s name did not feature in the original list,with the team management opting for Gurvinder Singh Chandi. But with Chandi still recovering from an ankle ligament injury,Shivendra’s name was included at the last moment along with Harbir Singh,who replaced Danish Mujtaba. “It’s the kind of break he needed. It might well be the last chance for him to create an impression and prove his mettle,” says a selector. Shivendra adds: “I know it’ll be tough to get another chance. But I am in good shape,it’s the best I have been physically in last few months.”
One wonders if the injury-prone striker ever came close to realising his full potential. His intriguing blend of speed and a sharp eye in front of the goal endeared him to many but was thwarted by inconsistency in front of goal and a body wrecked by injuries.
During the senior national championships in Bangalore a couple of years ago,Shivendra had so badly damaged his shoulder that the doctors were hesitant to operate on him,fearing the worst. It was only when Dhanraj Pillay intervened and flew down an expert from Mumbai that the operation was performed. A few say he wasn’t 100 per cent fit going into the Olympics as well,with the injury still bothering him. And just when he recovered,he suffered another blow – a fractured ankle during the Hockey India League kept him out of action for close to three months.
Physical and mental scars
It isn’t just injuries that have taken a toll on Shivendra. Dealing with the mental stress hasn’t been easy either. “I wasn’t surprised when I was dropped for the Champions Trophy in Melbourne last year,but being sidelined for the Asian Champions Trophy came as a rude shock for me. I thought I would never be picked again for India. My wife urged me to work hard and not lose focus. In the end,I am glad to have lived up to her and my coach’s expectations,” Shivendra says.
Squad: Goalkeepers: P R Sreejesh,P T Rao; Defenders: VR Raghunath (vice-captain),Sandeep Singh,Rupinder Pal Singh,Harbir Singh Sandhu; Midfielders: Birendra Lakra,Sardar Singh (captain),Manpreet Singh,Kothajit Singh,Gurmail Singh; Forwards: SV Sunil,Shivendra Singh,Chinglensana Singh,Nithin Thimmaiah,Dharamvir Singh,Akashdeep Singh,Mandeep Singh.
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