India men hockey defender Rupinder Pal Singh has opened up on his battle with depression after being dropped from the team following the 2018 Asian Games. Rupinder said he was contemplating quitting the game altogether during what he calls the ‘darkest phase’ of his life.

“I went into depression after I was dropped from the team following the debacle in 2018 Asian Games. It was the darkest phase of my life. I even thought of quitting the game,” Rupinder was quoted as saying by The Times of India on Saturday.

He added, “It was like the only thing you have done your entire life was suddenly snatched away from you.”

However, Rupinder has made rapid strides towards returning to his best since his comeback. In the two-legged Olympic qualifying match against Russia last year, he struck twice in the second match as India punched their ticket for the Tokyo Olympics. Earlier in January, as India made their FIH Pro Hockey debut, Rupinder scored twice as the hosts beat the Netherlands 5-2 before helping them equalise 3-all in the second match which they eventually pocketed in the shootout.

He thanked his family for keeping him motivated as believing in his talent that ultimately gave him the strength to launch his comeback. “Thanks to my family. They kept me motivated. My father reminded me why I started playing hockey. It was my dream to play for India. But I did not have any self-esteem left, so another comeback was looking an uphill task,” he said.

He continued, “But my family remained committed no matter what. They made me believe in my abilities and slowly but steadily I started practising. And, once I started enjoying the sound of the ball hitting the back of the net in the practice sessions, I said to myself, let’s give it another go.”

As far as India’s chances at the Olympics are concerned, Rupinder says provided they can manage the same intensity as they did against Netherlands in the second leg of their pro league contests, a top-four finish is a possibility.

“We will have to play like we played in the second half against the Dutch. But not just in patches, we will have to maintain the intensity in the entire tournament. If we are to do that, top four is a possibility. Who knows, we can even play in the final,” he said.