SV Sunil is a key player in the Indian forwardline’s scheme of things and his vast experience will surely pan out to be handy in India’s 2014 World Cup campaign (as he looks certain to be picked).
The Terry Walsh-coached national team has seen the induction of a slew of youngsters in recent times and it is pretty clear that a player of Sunil’s stature will have to assume the responsibility of providing the ‘guiding’ quotient to them in the run-up to the marquee event. “I will try to help the youngsters in whatever way I can. If I can’t I will be failing in my duties towards the team,” he says candidly in an exclusive interview.
The Coorg lad, who turns 25 next month, came off a strenuous World Cup in New Delhi before embarking on a weeklong trip to the Netherlands where India will play two practice games against the Dutch national side as well as one against Belgium. “The Dutch trip will work well for us. Since the World Cup will be held there in six weeks’ time I’m sure it will help the boys to know what to expect - playing against the Netherlands twice will enable us to know where we stand after all the preparations we had in New Delhi,” the suave, soft-spoken striker observes.
There was a lot of talk about some new techniques being adopted at the recent New Delhi camp and Sunil, who has made more than hundred international appearances, hopes these will work to a nicety for them. “We tried out a quite few things like swapping players, essaying aerial passes among others and are confident that these will benefit us.” he says.
The competition for places is cranking up all the time and even Terry Walsh had made it abundantly clear that no player can take his spot for granted. Sunil sees the positive side of it. “It’s a healthy sign to see competition for places – the good thing is it keeps every player on their toes with little room for complacency. I think it bodes well for the team,” he says with a tinge of pragmatism.
The Blueshirts grabbed the eyeballs at the 2014 Hockey World League Final in New Delhi, where they stunned Olympic champions Germany 5-4 and even played out a 3-3 draw with them, a match they could have easily won but not for a goal leaked in the dying moments of the game. Such robust performances against top teams make one wonder whether India is now ‘ready’ to take on the world’s best sides. So how does Sunil assess India’s World Cup chances? “The team is teeming with self-belief, but I don’t want to say whether we can make a podium finish. We are improving all the time and if we play to our potential a top-six finish is very much achievable,” he quips.
He is clear about who are strong contenders for the 2014 World Cup. “I think Germany and Australia are formidable and can go all the distance. Even hosts Netherlands are capable of cornering glory,” he remarks.
Sunil likes to wear his heart in his sleeve – nothing matters to him than wearing the national jersey. At the 2009 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Sunil refused to return home when his dad passed away and continued his national duties. “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 I set aside all personal emotions and played for India in that tournament,” he recalls.
The nippy forward is a big Aamir Khan fan. “I unwind myself by watching moves with my friends. Aamir Khan is my favourite, I make it a point to watch all his movies,” reveals as he fires his parting shot.
(The writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)