Having made a comeback to the Indian hockey team, Rupinder Pal Singh’s playing career has received a fresh lease of life and the dragflicker cannot wait to get back on the field when India begin their FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha.

Rupinder, 32, was dropped after the 2018 Asian Games, which led him to miss the Hockey World Cup. He did return for the tour of Australia in April this year but had to miss out again for the FIH Series final in July.

“It was a difficult phase,” Rupinder told Times of India. “First, I was injured and then I worked hard to recover and regain fitness. It wasn’t enough and despite my best efforts I couldn’t make my way back into the team after recovery. Also, rehabilitation robbed me of precious time and I had to play catch-up with players who were training regularly. I think that phase is past me. Now, it feels good to be back in the team for a major tournament.”

A disappointed Rupinder admitted that the snub had him contemplate retirement but he managed to pick himself up from the setback and work his way to the top.

“When you are fighting physical battles and then don’t find a place in the team, negativity is bound to creep in. It happened with me as well. But thankfully, that period did not last long because of the support system I have, especially my family and friends. They kept telling me, and still tell me, that I have a lot of hockey left in me,” he said.

“I embraced the fact that everyone has to face bad times, just the way we enjoy the good moments,” he says. “Among the things that helped me tide over the circumstances was motivational videos I watched regularly. That helped me focus on making my way back into the team.”

The tournament is underway but India will have to wait till Friday and Saturday when they play Russia twice. For Rupinder, playing the Olympics and winning a medal remains the ultimate goal and with talented youngsters in the team, the India dragflicker is confident about doing well.

“It’s healthy competition when the juniors come in. It works to my advantage as well because I feed of their energy and they also push me to work harder,” he said. “I take it one tournament at a time and the goal is to win matches for India. I’m sure my performance for the team will speak for itself.”