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Exclusive: Lot of hard work left before Asia Cup - Indian hockey striker SV Sunil

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Exclusive 07 Jul 2013, 00:59 IST
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Hockey Olympic qualifier practice

SV Sunil

Inconsistency is something every player looks to iron out. SV Sunil did precisely the same at the Hockey World League semifinals in Rotterdam, where he emerged as one of the finds of the tournament for India.

For someone, who is blessed with the burst of speed, Sunil has often caused tongues wagging among critics about his propensity to indulge in aimless pacy runs on the flanks as well as down the middle of the pitch.

But the Rotterdam event brought to the fore the mature side of Sunil as he used his potent weapon – burst of speed – judiciously, often inflicting damage on the opposition.

“I wasn’t using my speed to my advantage earlier. I saw videos of some of our earlier matches and arrived at the conclusion that I needed to use my burst of speed more judiciously. I did put my thinking cap on at Rotterdam and feel happy that all my hard work is paying off,” Sunil says in an exclusive interview to Sportskeeda.

The 24-year-old Indian striker, who has played over 100 internationals, is, however, downcast about the national team coming so close and not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Of course, the hoarding board collision-induced injury did affect India’s rhythm in the second half of the crucial play-off tie against Spain. “It’s disappointing to see ourselves not to make it in the Rotterdam event. I got injured crashing into the hoarding board with twenty minutes remaining for the final hooter, which left me frustrated as I wanted to play a part in India sneaking through,” he puts forth his thoughts.

The sight of Sunil crashing into the hoarding board would indicate disaster of some kind waiting to happen, but much to the relief of his hockey fans, Sunil is fully fit now. “At first, I thought this could be disastrous as the collision had full impact on my right knee – which I had operated upon in 2010. To be honest, I feared the worst but thankfully it isn’t that serious. I have had a good rest for the past few days and I’m now doing the daily training schedule assigned to me,” he says.

The Coorg-lad concedes that the team has to work really hard if it has to win the ninth Asia Cup and seal the 2014 World Cup berth. “There is plenty of room for improvement. Our forward line has to put in the hard yards and worked on combining as a strong unit. We also need to tighten up our defence as we are repeatedly conceding soft goals. We also need to score consistently from penalty corners,” he reasons.

Sunil was part of the Indian team which had the dubious distinction of finishing outside the top-four in the Asia Cup for the first-time ever at the last edition in Kuantan in 2009. “I played that match. It was a kind of a humiliation for us drawing China 2-2 as it put us out of the semifinals. We held a 2-1 lead with two Sandeep Singh goals before China scored a late goal to spoil our party. We definitely need to redeem ourselves with a good showing this time around,” he adds ruefully.

India would look for some help from teams like Malaysia and Korea in the 2nd men’s Hockey World League in Johor Bahru. “There are various possibilities for us to qualify for the World Cup. If any two Asian teams among three make it to the World Cup from the Johor Bahru Round 3 event, our job will become a lot easier in Ipoh. Having said that, we will be focusing on winning the Asia Cup and sealing the World Cup berth,” he concludes.

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