Bhubaneswar/Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): India skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad believes unity and team bonding is his side's greatest strength going into the FIH Junior World Cup which kick-starts here on November 24.
Highlighting the junior team's improvement since he first played with it in 2017, Prasad said, "The team performed better in 2018 and 2019, but in 2020, the Covid period was a period of struggle for all." "But the players remained and trained together with the aim to win the title (in Bhubaneswar), and hence the unity and the bond between them has improved a lot. The structure of the team has also improved." India will open its title defence with a clash against France on the opening day of the event.
The skipper, who was part of India's historic Olympic bronze medal winning side in Tokyo, named Maninder Singh, Rahul Rajbar and Sanjay as some of the key players in the side.
"I hope and I believe we will do well in this tournament as well," he said in a Hockey India statement.
In 2017, Prasad led India men's junior team for the first time at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia, where the side finished third.
He was named the 'Young Player of the Tournament' for his consistent performances.
In 2018, Prasad received a call-up to India men's senior side. "In 2013, in one of the small tournaments in my village in Itarsi district, Madhya Pradesh, Ashok Dhyan Chand came as the chief guest. He picked me from there and gave me an opportunity to come to the academy. I was shocked that such a big player is calling me to his academy. I could not believe it," Prasad recalled.
"Two years later, I came to India junior national camp. But unfortunately, I was not selected in the 33-man core group. A week later, when I went back to the academy, I suffered a major injury as my collar bone broke. After the operation, it took me around five months to recover.
"After I returned, I received another injury, and it was serious. Doctor told my parents that there is very little chance of my recovery. But I kept my focus on my recovery, and my family and friends helped me at that time," he shared his struggle and tough days.
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