Returning India defender Rupinder Pal Singh, who was named in the squad for Hockey World League Final tournament on Friday, said he is eager to start from the beginning after “the toughest phase of his career”. Rupinder, who last featured for the national side in Azlan Shah Cup in April-May this year, suffered a hamstring injury just before Hockey World League Semifinal began in London.
Speaking to news agency PTI, the 27-year old said, “I can say it was the toughest phase of my career. The injury was not healing and it was frustrating to sit out. But I was confident I could overcome this. In such situations one needs to be patient. I had the support of my family, friends and teammates and that helped me immensely.”
The Punjab player, who is known for his dragflicking skills, added that he is ready for “a new beginning”. “The road ahead is obviously difficult because I have to start from the scratch again. It’s a new beginning for me. I know I will face stiff competition but only competition can make you better. One can improve more if pushed hard,” he said.
Earlier, in the day, Hockey India (HI) had announced its 18-member squad for the Hockey World League Final, which will be played in Bhubaneswar, Odisha from December 1 to December 10. Former skipper Sardar Singh was a surprise omission from the squad, which paved way for penalty-corner specialist Rupinder and midfielder Birendra Lakra in the squad.
Rupinder’s injury had benefited young defender Harmanpreet Singh, who also impressed with his drag-flicking skills and is expected to pose a stiff competition for him for the starting XI position. Speaking on his team-mate’s abilities, Rupinder said, “Harman and I share a very good relation. We share our thoughts, our views on the field. So it was always motivating for me to see him excel when I was not in the team.”
India’s conversion rate of penalty corners has remained poor for a long time and inclusion of Rupinder along with Harmanpreet may boost the side’s strength in this regard. But Rupinder said he will continue to play his natural game of defence. “Penalty corner is my second priority. My first priority is my normal game which is in the defence. In a game you always don’t get penalty corners but as a player you are always required to play your normal game,” the defender said.