Bhaichung Bhutia could get some Asian Cup action in India's last game against South Korea but he doesn't want Tuesday to be his last outing in an India shirt.
"I don't want to retire injured. I am fighting a personal battle here and I want to win this, get fit and lead the team before I quit. But it's one thing to want it and quite another for it to happen that way," Bhutia told HT over the phone from Doha.
To get fit, the India captain said he would take a break for "two-three months" effectively ruling himself out of I-League 4. This would be the first I-League without Bhutia, 34, who has been playing at the top level since 1993 and was adjudged the Most Valuable Player in the 2009 Nehru Cup.
Bhutia said it was personally "very frustrating" to not play in the Asian Cup simply because "I don't think I will ever be part of such a big tournament ever" But assuming the injury doesn't worsen, he said there is a "very good chance" of playing for some time against South Korea.
For that, he has already consulted Australia team doctors and will again visit a hospital on Sunday to get blood drained out of his right calf. "I got that procedure done on Friday," he said, speaking after a full training session with the team on Saturday.
He wouldn't start though. "First, I am not match-fit and second, given the outstanding performance of Abhishek Yadav and Sunil Chhetri, it would be unfair to drop any of them on Tuesday. Abhishek's height and strength helps us win a lot of aerial balls. He is quite an important player in the team."
About India's performance so far, the captain said: "I wish we hadn't conceded some silly goals because the backline didn't react fast enough but overall, I am proud of the effort. The stats showed we ran as much as Australia and that shows the kind of commitment we put in.
"Having played international football for nearly two decades, I know how India would play international matches till recently. It would be random kicks up the park, cower and crowd your penalty area. This team has tried to play football. The tempo of an I-League match and this is different and yet we have fought till the end."