Defender Sumit Is On A Comeback Trail.
Hockey: Sumit is back in team and now he is eyeing Asiad glory.
Ever since his debut at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April 2017,Sumit became a regular in the Indian hockey team. One of the fittest members in the squad, the 26-year old played a crucial role in India's defence. Sumit's crowning moment came in Tokyo in August 2021 when India ended a 41-year wait to win a hockey medal at the Olympics. The Haryana player also played the Asian Champions Trophy in December 2021 but following that, he fell out of favour of then chief coach Graham Reid and was dropped from the team. Sumit played only five of the 16 Pro League matches in the 2021-22 and was not picked for the 2022 CWG in Birmingham.
"It was a very difficult phase. I spoke to the coach. He said I was not able to fit into the team. I kept practising and thought I will make a comeback at the CWG, but I wasn't selected. I wasn't even on the standby list", said Sumit, who hails from Kurar village in Sonipat. Sumit saw some hype when he was selected to play three Pro League matches in Bhubaneswar in October-November 2022 against Spain and New Zealand. He thought he was back in the reckoning when he was selected for the tour of Australia in November-December 2022. But there too Sumit played only two out of five games, that too out of his regular position.
"The coach played me in defence in one match and in the second as an attacking mid-fielder", said Sumit. Coming from humble means-his father was a labourer who was out of work for several months a year-Sumit is used to tough experience in life. He even worked as a cleaner in a dhaba in Murthal, Haryana as a teen. But he said none of his early experience was as painful as not getting selected for the World Cup in January this year at home. "I wasn't even on the standby list once again. I was shocked. It was extremely disappointing", said Sumit. But Sumit kept working hard. He focused on his basic skills, his effectiveness around the striking circle and increase the number of shots on goal.
Sumit also worked extensively on penalty corners, how to maintain the defensive structure and tackle opposition players outside the circle. Reid quit his job following the World Cup debacle where India finished joint ninth-the worst finish by a host nation at the quadrennial event. Following that Sumit got a fresh lease of life when interim coach David John brought him back into the team for three Pro League matches against newly crowned World champions Germany and Australia in Rourkela in March. India had won all three matches. "I was back playing in the defence. I performed well. It was a comeback for me. I gained confidence by performing well and helping the team win. It felt good, " Said Sumit, who has played 95 internationals.
New chief coach Craig Fulton noticed Sumit's performance in Rourkela and picked him for three Pro League matches against hosts Netherlands and Argentina in Eindhoven earlier this month. "It is going well under the new coach. He is interested talking to each and every player, doesn't matter who is senior or junior. He keeps in touch with everyone. It is a very good thing for the team, " added Sumit. Sumit now aims to represent India at the Asian Games, win gold and help the team qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
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