Veteran Indian men’s hockey team forward SV Sunil on Friday said he is taking an indefinite break from his hockey career. He has made it clear that he will be unavailable for the national camp, starting in Bengaluru this month.
The striker elaborated that he will be unavailable for 11-a-side games, but will continue to play any shorter formats of the game. He took to social media to announce his decision to take a break from the longer format of the game. SV Sunil missed out on the Tokyo Olympics as he did not make the 16-member squad.
The agile forward was a key member of the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic squad. He has played for India in 264 games, scoring 72 goals and is also a recipient of the Arjuna Award.
Sunil added that he will be available to play in the shorter format of the game and also help Indian hockey grow. He said:
“I will continue to be available to play the shorter form of the game and be involved with Indian hockey in any capacity the Hockey India wants me to.”
He admitted that being dropped from the Indian men’s hockey team for the Tokyo Olympics was one of the breaking points for Sunil. He has since rethought his career and said:
“It wasn’t the easiest decision to make, but it wasn’t the toughest either, given that I didn’t make it to the team for the Tokyo Games. The omission put a question mark on my future as a player in the 11-a-side format. With the 2024 Paris Olympics three years away, I think, as a senior player it is important that I make way for youngsters and help in building a winning team for the future.”
Elaborating on missing out on the team for the Tokyo Olympics, Sunil said the dream of winning an Olympic medal will never be realized. He explained:
“I will be lying to everyone, including myself, if I say I am a happy man. I always dreamt of helping my team to the podium at the Olympics and that would be the final hurrah. Unfortunately, it was not to be. That my teammates won the bronze medal is a special feeling, epic truly, even if it’s tinged with some sadness personally. But I know, this is the right decision.”
Sunil rose rapidly through the ranks in 2007
The Arjuna awardee from Somwarpet in Coorg made a memorable international debut in 2007 at the Asia Cup. India won the tournament after beating Pakistan in the final. Since then, there has been no looking back for this speedy striker who was part of India's incredible rise in global hockey.
The two-time Olympian remained the cynosure of the Indian forward line for over a decade with fine performances. He was part of the Indian team that won the gold medal in the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy and the silver in the same event in 2012.
Sunil has to his credit a gold and a bronze medal from the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, respectively. He was also part of the gold medal-winning team in the Asia Cup 2017. He played an instrumental role in the team's historic silver medal wins in the 2016 and 2018 FIH Champions Trophy.
In his long-serving career, Sunil also led the forward line in the 2015 World League Final where the team won a bronze medal and he was also part of the team that won another bronze medal in the same event in 2017 in Bhubaneswar.