Junior Hockey World Cup: Skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad recalls Indian team's steady rise over the years

Indian junior hockey team skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad. (PC: Hockey India)
Indian junior hockey team skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad. (PC: Hockey India)

Vivek Sagar Prasad, the Indian junior men's hockey team skipper for the FIH Hockey Men's Junior World Cup, recently introspected on how the junior men's team has improved in the past few years.

In a podcast with Hockey India, the versatile midfielder shared his journey with the Indian junior and senior men's hockey teams. In 2017, Prasad led the Indian men's junior team as skipper for the first time at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia. He led India to a third place finish while bagging the 'Young Player of the Tournament' award for his consistent performances.

In 2018, Prasad received a call-up to the Indian men's senior hockey team. He has performed at the highest level against some of the best teams in the world in the past three years. The young hockey star will now be leading India's junior team once again as India look to defend their Junior World Cup title.

Read: Men's Junior Hockey World Cup: Teams excited to play in Kalinga Stadium

Speaking on the junior team's improvement since he first played with them in 2017, Prasad particularly highlighted the team's bonding.

"The team performed better in 2018 and 2019, but in 2020, the pandemic was a struggle for all. The players remained and trained together with the aim to win the title (in Bhubaneswar), and hence the unity and the bond between them has improved a lot. The structure of the team has also improved."

Prasad also said that some of the players have also improved, particularly naming Maninder Singh, Rahul Rajbar, and Sanjay as some of the key players in the team.

"I hope and I believe we will do well in this tournament as well."

Vivek Prasad reminisices on his hockey career

The 21-year-old midfielder, who was part of India's historic bronze medal-winning campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, recalled how he battled injuries early on in his career.

Vivek Prasad recalled how he was taken into Ashok Kumar Dhyan Chand's academy during his formative years. He said:

"In 2013, in one of the small tournaments in my village in Itarsi district, Madhya Pradesh, Ashok Dhyan Chand came as the chief guest. He gave me an opportunity to come to the academy. I was shocked that such a big player is calling me to his academy. I could not believe it."
The party is about to begin in Bhubaneswar 😍The Indian Junior Men’s Team is ready to take on the world during the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup 2021 🏆#IndiaKaGame #RisingStars #JWC2021

Soon, an Indian junior national camp opportunity came calling as well. However, the charismatic midfielder couldn't go any further due to an injury.

With the help of friends, family and expert medical care, Prasad bounced back and since then there has been no looking back.

"Two years later, I came to India junior national camp. Unfortunately, I was not selected in the 33-man core group. A week later, when I went back to the academy, I suffered a major injury as my collar bone broke. After the operation, it took me around five months to recover," he revealed. "After I returned, I suffered another serious injury and the doctors told my parents that there was a very little chance of my recovery. However, I kept my focus on my recovery, and my family and friends helped me at that time."

The 21-year-old will now hope to lead India to another FIH Hockey Men's Junior World Cup victory in the coming weeks.

Also read: FIH Hockey Junior World Cup 2021: Teams, pools and match details

Edited by Anantaajith Ra
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