India men's hockey forward Shilanand Lakra admitted staying patient paid dividends and is happy to make the most of the opportunities he is getting at the international level.
Having made his senior India debut in 2018, Shilanand Lakra thought it would be easy. The fierce internal competition for a place in the squad was also something he never expected.
However, the 21-year-old has learnt his own way of holding fort among the seniors. Shilanand Lakra fought for his chances and delivered when it mattered the most.
“Having made my debut for the senior team three years ago, I’d have expected myself to play more but that is how competitive it is; there are so many amazing players in the core probables group,” Shilanand Lakra said in a hockey India press statement.
“My aim has always been to earn a place in the team through consistent performances in domestic tournaments, national camps and whenever I play for India – as a starter or a substitute,” added Shilanand Lakra, who hails from Sundargarh district in Odisha.
Lockdown allowed Shilanand Lakra to re-analyse his game
The youngster was part of the successful Indian side that recently toured Argentina. India won both their FIH Pro League matches against the 2016 Olympic Champions and also two of their four practice encounters. Shilanand Lakra scored a goal in the final practice match.
“To be out of competitive action for so long…it gave me the time to re-think and analyse my performances, and also prepare for the highs and lows in the months ahead. I am also constantly in touch with the coaching staff, especially chief coach Graham Reid, who has helped me improve on my game immensely,” Shilanand Lakra added.
The young forward also feels India are in good stead ahead of the Tokyo Olympics but the focus is now on the FIH Pro League matches against Great Britain next month. Following that, the Men in Blue will play the likes of Spain and Germany also next month.
“I think we played very good hockey against Olympic Champions Argentina. Our recent performances show that we are in good shape going into a big event like the Olympics. Right now, though, our focus is only on the FIH Pro League games against Great Britain next month,” he added.
Shilanand Lakra credits Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra
Shilanand Lakra also didn’t forget to mention the impact of state seniors Amit Rohidas and Birendra Lakra – the two other Odisha players – in the Indian side, on his short career till now.
“I think both of them have been exceptional and I get so much inspiration when I speak to them. They have always been given me sound advice. I turned to them whenever my morale was low over the past two years and it helps a young player like me to see two other players from Odisha make it big in Indian hockey,” Shilanand Lakra signed off.