I thought of quitting, says Sunil

I thought of quitting, says Sunil

FIGHTER: SV Sunil has worked really hard to recover from a career-threatening knee injury and return to the national side. DH PHOTO

When athletes are forced to spend more time on the bed than the playing field, nightmarish thoughts cross their mind. Such thoughts kept constantly bombarding striker SV Sunil’s mind when he suffered a career-shattering Grade 3 LCL tear on his left knee last October.

“Yes, at one time, the thought (of retirement) crossed my mind, that I was done,” said the 30-year-old, Sunil following a training session at the SAI South Centre here on Tuesday. “This is my second major injury -- first I injured my right knee, this time it was my left knee. The thought does creep into your mind that this is enough.”

The best thing to do when one feels very low is to have a conversation with a close friend or a family member and that’s exactly what Sunil did to arrest the negativity inside him. “I spoke to my coaches, team-mates, my close friends like (PR) Sreejesh and Biru (Birendra Lakra). They (Sreejesh and Lakra) are my good friends. Even they had suffered long-term injuries, so they knew what it was like.

“They told me that there was still a lot of hockey left in me. They asked me not to rush into any decision. I also spoke to my family. Even they wanted me to continue. They urged me not to give up. I discussed my future with the coach as well. He told me I could still play. That motivated me to continue. Self-belief was very important.”

Sunil, buoyed by the encouragement from people all around him, started to fight his way back. Missing the all-important World Cup last December at home hurt him badly but undeterred, he plotted comeback brick by brick.

He followed the programmes handed out to by scientific advisor Robin Arkell sincerely and when the men’s team was away competing in tournaments, he sought the help of women’s team scientific advisor Wayne Lombard to get back to full fitness.

“I did strength and conditioning training first. Then I slowly started running a bit. I had put on weight since I was not able to train. I was on crutches for two months almost. My fat percentage had gone up to 12 from 7.5 per cent. I had put on seven kilos. When I was running I felt as if someone was sitting on my back. Robin told me I had to lose weight. So I controlled my diet and followed his routine.

“Having played for the country for so long, missing a major tournament is a big setback in life. But I knew that once I was 100 per cent fit, I could return. It hurt to sit at home while tournaments were going on, but that only gave me more motivation to come back.”

After months of turmoil and self-doubts, Sunil managed a smile for the first time when he was named in the 34-member probables’ list early this month. 

That smile grew bigger when he was picked for the Tokyo test event. “I will try to contribute as much as possible in Tokyo. My goal is to help India win this tournament. Some people may look at this as just a test event, but for me, this is a very big tournament because I’m coming back from injury.”