Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hockey India League will be a learning curve, says Indian hockey striker SV Sunil

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

‘Burst of speed’ is SV Sunil’s middle name. No one can question the fact that he is the fastest moving player in the current Indian team. Fast counter-attacks or blistering solo runs are synonymous with Sunil.

It is this attribute of his which makes him an exciting player to watch on the hockey turf. He can rattle any opposition with speed – remember the 2011 Champions Challenge tournament where he made the South Africans sweat and left them bemused with his acceleration, scoring two goals in India’s 7-4 rout – or even the India-Pakistan match at the 2012 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where he scored a splendid match-clincher in the dying moments with a diving effort.

Sunil knows that speed is a great weapon to have, but also realizes the fact that judicious use of speed is imperative if it has to benefit the team.

“I know speed is my forte and I have been able to trouble the opposition on many occasions. But I’ve been guilty of missing chances as well as I have not been able to provide the final thrust in an attacking move mainly because of my inability to combine with my team-mates. I need to slow down my pace a bit at times so that my team-mates can benefit from my moves. I’m working on it,” the Indian striker told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.

The year 2012 may not have gone the way Sunil wanted – a disastrous London Olympics campaign and the FIH 34th Champions Trophy where he struggled with injury and form. But the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha towards the end of the year saw Sunil find his goal-scoring touch.

Hockey Olympic qualifier practice

In fact, the Indian team’s performance in the Champions Trophy and the Asian Champions Trophy left many of its ardent supporters pleasantly surprised. Sunil attributes the impressive performance to the induction of many youngsters in the side.

“Lot of youngsters were given a chance to play for the country, which was a big moment for them. These youngsters knew that they were included in the place in place of senior players; so the onus was on to perform and they exuded extra josh in both the tournaments,” the Coorg lad said matter-of-factly.

Sunil’s unbridled passion to play for the country can be gauged by the fact that he refused to return home when his dad passed away while he was donning the Indian colours at the 2009 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. How could he take such a strong decision tinged with emotion?

“My father wished that I earn a big name in hockey, so I thought if I could play and help my country win, he will be happy. So far, I’ve been able to achieve only 25% of what I desired – I’ve to achieve the rest 75%,” the 24-year old gangling striker observed.

Sunil, who has played 115 internationals and scored 47 goals, felt that the Hero Hockey India League would be a huge learning curve for him.

“You keep learning all the time. HIL would be a massive platform to learn and the same applies to many Indian youngsters, who would be playing with and against some of the world’s top players for the first time.”

Australian hockey icon Jamie Dwyer is Sunil’s favourite hockey player; no wonder, he is buzzing with excitement about playing alongside him.

“It’s a big thing for me to share the dressing room and play with the world’s best striker. He has been the FIH World Player of the Year on five occasions and he is definitely special. I hope to imbibe some skills from him,” he gushes.

Jaypee Punjab Warriors have an incisive forwardline but Sunil insisted that it counts for nothing if a team cannot deliver on the field.

“Our strike force is robust. Besides Dwyer, I have good friend Shivendra Singh for company upfront – I have been playing with him for five years – there is also Dharamvir Singh who is also handy. You got to understand that looking good on paper is fine but we have to perform on the field.”

Sunil, however, believed that his side stood a good chance of winning the league.

“If you look at our team combination, we have a good team. I think we have a bright chance of emerging triumphant.”

The soft-spoken, demure Services striker is a big Aamir Khan fan.

“I unwind myself by watching moves with my friends. Aamir Khan is my favourite, I have watched all his movies so far,” he asserted.

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