India’s hope of going into the Hockey World League (HWL) semi-finals with an injury-free squad received a huge blow with the news of a hamstring injury to V.R. Raghunath. With his ability on the penalty corners and defending ability, the team will definitely miss the 26-year old.However, this is not the first time that a pivotal member of the Indian squad has suffered an injury right before an international tournament. There have been plenty others who have been unlucky with injuries ahead of an important tournament. Some even failed to recover from their injury and were forced to retire from hockey.Here are 5 Indian players whose tournament ended before it started due to injury:
#1 Jugraj Singh
Jugraj Singh was, arguably, the best drag-flicker India has ever produced and had already made his mark at the international stage when he scored 2 important goals in India’s 7-4 win in Champions Trophy group stage against arch rivals Pakistan. He made his debut for India in 2001 at the Asia Cup, Ipoh.
At a tender age of 20, enjoying plenty of success and set for a stellar career, tragedy struck when he got injured in a severe car accident right before the 2003 Asia Cup. He sustained multiple injuries in his right pelvis, thigh and right elbow. His penalty corners did not have the same venom due to the injuries sustained and without his primary weapon, he faded away from the scene returning to take a brief part in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) briefly was in action again in PHL with Chandigarh Dynamos.
Despite being a defender, his penalty corner expertise allowed him to score 51 times for the national team across all age groups. He even trained India’s next big penalty corner taker Sandeep Singh and current drag-flick expert Rupinder Pal Singh.
During his short spell with the Indian hockey team, he won over plenty of plaudits with Sohail Abbas, the penalty corner specialist, once remarking that he saw a younger himself in Jugraj.
#2 Sandeep Singh
Another promising young Indian penalty corner specialist who emerged through the ranks after Jugraj got injured was Sandeep Singh. He made his debut in January 2004 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia. His drag-flick technique was considered to be inch-perfect and helped him put a lot of power in the shots with his drag-flick recorded at 145kmph said to be the fastest drag flick in the world.
A moment of misfortune in August, 2006 when he was accidently hit by a bullet fired by a local policeman, put a halt on his progress. While travelling in a passenger train in Punjab, the bullet hit him on his lower back which left him almost paralysed and on a wheelchair for almost two years.The incident also meant that he could not take part in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It was his determination, passion for the game of stick and ball that saw him make a comeback at the international stage in 2008.
He had an instant impact on the results as India finished second in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2008. Due to his such impact on the game and his leadership skills, he was given the captain’s armband in 2009. Under his leadership, India clinched the winners title in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2009. Sandeep was the highest scorer in the tournament that got him the Man of the tournament award. He continued scoring goals for the national side years after and was the highest goal scorer for India in the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers.
#3 V.R. Raghunath
Another young promising defender and drag-flicker to emerge through the ranks is V.R. Raghunath. He made his debut in 2005 against arch-rivals Pakistan as a replacement for Sandeep Singh.
The 27-year-old defender sustained a hamstring injury right before the start of the Hockey World League semis. The injury ruled the penalty corner specialist out of the 18-member squad, who would be representing India in the WHL semis in Belgium and gave Rupinder Pal Singh, who was initially dropped, an unexpected second chance.
He was awarded the ‘Best player of the Tournament’ at the 2013 Asia Cup where he bagged 6 goals for the national side. He was also very successful in the Hockey India League (HIL) for his franchise team Uttar Pradesh Wizards. He has scored 17 goals over a time period of two seasons.
#4 Ramandeep Singh
Ace Indian striker Ramandeep Singh made his debut at the 2013 Asia Cup and was a success from the start. He settled into the team seamlessly and immediately formed an understanding with the other forwards in the team.
The Punjab-based forward got injured right before the start of the 2014 Hockey World Cup. He was hit by a scooped ball from Argentinian Gonzalo Peillat on the cheekbone in the first World Cup practice game. He suffered three fractures on his cheekbone and had to go under the knife multiple times.
The striker, who plays for Punjab and Sind Bank, has represented the national side 41 times and found the net on 10 occasions.
#5 Baljit Singh
Promising Indian goalkeeper Baljit Singh was at the receiving end of one of the worst injuries anyone has suffered in the world of sport. He made his debut in 2000 in a 4-nation tournament played in Poland and quickly became the first-choice goalkeeper for the national team.
He suffered a major setback in his career in 2009 when he was struck by a golf ball in his right eye under his helmet during a training session. He sustained this injury right before the European tour. The impact was so hard that he nearly lost his vision having suffered global rupture. It took a tremendous effort from the doctors and great determination from Baljit to stage a recovery.
Unfortunately to the goalie, though, he could not make it to the national side again as he was left out of the 48-probables for future tournaments. His career was cut short 9 years after he made his debut after 175 appearances for the national side.