Ashique Kuruniyan: Against Oman, I played like it was the last game of my life

Indian national team midfielder Ashique Kuruniyan reflected on his performance against Oman in India's first World Cup 2022 qualifier match, while also opening up about his long injury layoff.

Ashique Kuruniyan's return to the national team benefited the squad in the clash against Oman.   -  AIFF Media

Making his comeback to national team colours after a long injury layoff, 22-year-old forward Ashique Kuruniyan put up an outstanding display against Oman in India's first World Cup 2022 qualifier match.

Creating a number of chances and also playing a role in the team's first goal, Kuruniyan was a menace for the opposition back-line with his electric speed.

Against Oman, Kuruniyan made his first appearance for the Blue Tigers since January, after suffering a knee injury in the last match of the domestic season.

"There was only one thing on my mind - I have to play like it is the last game of my life," he said. "I had decided that I will give my all against Oman. After the injury, I never thought I will get my chance to come back so early and so, I was motivated to leave everything out on the pitch."

Amidst a packed crowd in Guwahati, Kuruniyan said that the atmosphere "charged up" the entire team. "There was some pressure as I was making my return, and that too in a World Cup qualifier match. However, the support from the fans was something incredible and it really charged up all the players and pushed us to give our best."

Ashique, who made his Blue Tigers debut against Chinese Taipei last year, marked his 13th national team appearance on Thursday -- after having missed the cut for the King's Cup and Hero Intercontinental Cup due to a knee injury.

Talking about the recovery process, he said, "I was recovering at home, which was taking time. I had about a month's rest and then used to practise every morning in the ground, followed by gym sessions in the evening. It was a tough process but I was pushing myself as much as I could."

"When my name was included in the probables for the camp in Goa, it was a huge boost for me. I met the head coach (Igor Stimac) for the first time and he asked me about my injury and motivated me a lot. We had a great camp there. I can see that all the players are happy and united and the team is improving steadily."

India will take on Qatar in its second qualifier on Tuesday at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, with the kick-off scheduled for 10 PM IST.