Having recovered from an arm injury, India dragflicker Varun Kumar is eager to make it to the squad that goes on to play in the Olympics in Tokyo next year. Also Read - India Men's Hockey Team Plays Out 4-4 Draw Against Argentina in Second Practice Match

Varun, 24, could not participate in the Olympics qualifiers due to a nerve damage in his left arm but the fact that the COVID-19 has put the entire world on hold and postponed the Olympics by a year, it gives the youngster time to be fit in time and put a case for himself to be drafted in India’s 16-member panel. Also Read - Spending More Time Has Brought Our Group Closer: SV Sunil

“We had a long National Camp in Bhubaneswar before the Olympic Qualifiers last year, and we were preparing ourselves to face Russia. Everything was going well for me, but with 10 days to go for the matches, I felt some weakness in my right arm and told the team physio David McDonald, Varun said. “He asked me to wait for a couple of days to see if it gets any better, but unfortunately it didn’t, so I had to pull out of the team. Also Read - Birendra Lakra to Replace Injured Varun Kumar in Indian Men’s Team for FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers

“It was definitely difficult for me because all year we had been thinking about qualifying for the Olympics, and when the moment actually came, I suffered the injury and couldn’t help my side. But I am also very proud that we have so many great players in this team. It just makes it easy for the team because the quality isn’t affected at all.”

Varun welcomes the FIH Pro League’s decision to extend itself by June 2021 as it gives the team time to prepare for the Summer Games. Season 2 of the FIH Hockey Pro League – the annual global League involving the world’s best international teams, both men and women – was initially set to run from January to June 2020. Around one third of the planned matches were completed between January and early March, before the escalating COVID-19 crisis brought the competition, like almost all major sporting events around the world, to a standstill.

“Obviously with the Olympics getting postponed, a lot of things have changed including our year-round schedule. We are still not sure when we will be able to resume outdoor training, so we can’t really say anything about the return of competitive hockey at all,” Varun said.

“However, with FIH’s decision to extend the Pro League to 2021, I feel it will be important that we utilise our chances of getting to play against the best teams in the world, and make further improvements so that we are ready to give our best in Tokyo next year.”

After fully recovering from a nerve injury, Varun was named in India’s squad of 32 for the men’s National Coaching Camp ahead of the FIH Pro League tie against World Champions Belgium. He was also named in the team that was to square off against Australia but never got the opportunity to do so owing to the pandemic. Which is why he cannot wait to prove himself once the next opportunity arrives.

“I know I could only support the team from the sidelines during the Qualifiers, but now my job is to prepare my body and my mind in the best way possible so that I do not miss out on being on that 16-member team that takes the field in Tokyo, and then give my best for the side to finish on the podium there.”

“When I had recovered completely from the injury, and had re-joined the camp in January, I was really eager to wear the blue strip again and represent my country in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020. I even managed to make my way into the 22-member squad which played against Australia, but then we were all struck with the coronavirus, and since then life has come to a stand-still for everyone.”