India’s hockey players are also feeling homesick and they made that known to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, who assured them of a ‘controlled’ resumption of practice soon in an online interaction on Thursday. The meeting chaired by Rijiju was attended by Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials, administrative heads, players of both men’s and women’s teams and coaches Graham Reid, Sjoerd Marijne. Also Read - LaLiga 2020-21 to Begin From September 12, Says President Javier Tebas

Rijiju reiterated that on-field training will resume once the Standard Operating Procedure is formulated by a six-member committee of SAI. The minister gave a patient hearing to the players and took note of feedback during the online meeting which was attended by 34 men and 24 women hockey players. Also Read - Renowned Astrologer Bejan Daruwalla Passes Away at 89 Due to COVID-19; Gujarat CM Rupani Expresses Grief

“The SOP is being drawn up and now we have the inputs from coaches and hockey players. We will resume practice soon but in a controlled manner,” Rijiju said in a press release later. Also Read - India GDP Q4: At 4.2% GDP Growth Lowest in 11 Years But Better Than Expected | Explained in 10 Points

Both the Indian men and women’s hockey teams are currently housed SAI’s South Centre in Bengaluru since the start of the coronavirus-forced lockdown on March 25.

“I assure that we will extend all support to get our athletes back on the ground to train, but we must be careful. We cannot afford to risk the health of even one athlete because that will jeopordise the entire training plan.

“We must accept that in the post COVID era, sports will not be played in the same way and we will have to adjust to the changes and move forward,” he added.

The Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams told the minister that resumption of on-field training in small groups as soon as possible will give them an upper-hand over other top nations as they gear up for Olympics next year.

“The players stated that they were feeling homesick but they very well understand that they are safe here. They just want to resume training to divert unwanted thoughts that creep in their minds,” a source told PTI.

In the virtual meeting, which also featured Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials, the players and coaches requested for early resumption of training in a group of four or five.

“If we are able to start training on basic skills and specialised skills in small batches and work on other techniques like penalty corners, it will help the teams to make a start towards Olympic preparations,” suggested India captain Manpreet Singh.

Women’s team skipper Rani Rampal said fitness-wise they are in good shape but they want to get back on the field to build stamina and remain focussed on the Olympics. “We are safer here than we would be even at home. I feel we can start training while following protocols of health and social distancing,” she said.

Former skipper and goalkeeper of the men’s team PR Sreejesh added: “It is important for us to be in top mental shape and if we start training it can help us refresh our minds and handle homesickness.

“Since there will be no events in the next few months, staying focussed on the game will be tough unless we start to train.”

Chief coaches of the men’s and women’s hockey teams, Graham Reid and Sjoerd Marine, and High-Performance Director David John were also present.

The source said the coaching staff emphasised on how Indian hockey will be a gainer if training is resumed at the earliest after following all safety protocols.

“The training can be started in a group of 4 or 5 maintaining social distancing norms. The focus of the training will be on basic and individual skills besides shooting and penalty corner practice drills.”

(With PTI Inputs)