Commonwealth Games 2018: Indian hockey team will go for gold, says SV Sunil
SV Sunil feels Indian hockey team’s improvement in training gives them the confidence they can upstage favourites and hosts Australia in the Commonwealth Games 2018.other sports Updated: Mar 27, 2018 09:44 IST
From playing hockey with a wooden stick in a Karnataka hamlet to becoming the most experienced forward of the India hockey team heading to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, it has been some journey for the wiry SV Sunil.
The 28-year-old made his international debut at the 2007 Asia Cup, which India won, and has seen several changes, from coaches to teammates. But it’s his skill and agility that has made him a permanent fixture in the ever-rotating Indian hockey team.
In an interview, the 2014 Asian Games gold medallist explains why Indian forwards have been inconsistent of late, whether drag-flickers diminish the importance of strikers, etc.
You have worn India colours for 11 years. How do you help groom young strikers, gel with them?
I experienced the same when I came in. I told them there is no senior or junior player, we are all the same. If they have personal problems or are struggling with their game, we discuss about them. At the end of the day, team is most important. Even if one player’s performance goes up or down, the team will be affected.
Why have India’s forwards been so inconsistent of late?
I agree the forward line has been inconsistent. But you have to see even if we are not scoring goals, we are at least earning penalty corners. We have worked on it. (New analytical coach) Chris Ciriello has taught us a few things like when to be patient inside the D. The biggest problem we had was positioning inside the circle. Our forward line used to receive the ball and then go inside the circle, which is very easy for the opposition defence to tackle. Things have changed a bit. We practised new things in the last camp in Bangalore. We will see the results in Commonwealth Games.
Off and on, India have lost to lower-ranked teams. Is it overconfidence?
I have experienced it many times. Whenever we take it easy, we lose. Whether it is the Olympics or Hockey World League, we have lost or drawn against teams like Canada and Ireland from winning positions. This is a lesson. In the last two camps we have decided not to take any team lightly, whether we are facing the World No 1 or 15, our approach will be the same.
Are forwards being overshadowed by drag-flickers?
No, I don’t think so. If the forwards don’t create penalty corners, how will the drag-flickers score? We all play for the benefit of the team. Forwards are as important as drag-flickers.
Does India have a realistic chance of winning after losing the last two finals to Australia?
Our target is gold. In 2014, we had chances but could not convert. This time we have a very good chance and have trained accordingly. We have a good team, a mix of experience and youth. It is up to us how we perform. We have to up the ante from the start, only then can we win. We have to maintain the team game structure for the entire tournament.
Were you surprised Sardar Singh was dropped from India’s CWG squad?
I was a bit, but it is not in our hands. It is the decision of the federation and selection committee. Our job is to play. His career is not over; he can be back for the next tournament.
How has life changed after marriage earlier this month?
I joined the camp two days after my marriage, so couldn’t even go for my honeymoon (laughs). Hockey is very important for me. Whatever I am today, it is all because of hockey. My full focus is on CWG.