Gurjant Singh hopes to be third time lucky

Form and injuries meant the transition from junior to senior has been bumpy for Gurjant Singh with just 41 games in four years.

Gurjant Singh's journey has been more about misses than hits. (File Photo)   -  The Hindu Archives

When Gurjant Singh struck in 13 seconds for the fastest ever international goal by India in the FIH Pro League opener against Netherlands, it was not just a stroke of luck.

Those who had seen him four years ago at the triumphant Junior World Cup would vouch for the 24-year old’s poaching abilities inside the circle, making him the hero of the semifinals and final back then.

Since then, however, Gurjant’s journey has been more about misses than hits. Form and injuries meant the transition from junior to senior has been bumpy with just 41 games in four years, marked with frustration even as some of his teammates went on to become permanent members of the national side.

"It has been difficult. Sitting home and watching games is the toughest thing to do for a player. It becomes more frustrating when you are out due to freak injuries. But the biggest motivation comes from staying positive, knowing the only thing in your control is hard work,” Gurjant admitted to Sportstar after India’s maiden outing in the Pro League in Bhubaneswar.

For me, the big advantage was that, despite being in and out of the team, I was always part of the core group and training with the national side. While you get the best facilities and competition, there is also hope that you are not forgotten by the federation...” — Gurjant Singh

“For me, the big advantage was that, despite being in and out of the team, I was always part of the core group and training with the national side. While you get the best facilities and competition, there is also hope that you are not forgotten by the federation and there is still hope of a comeback when you stay with the team and constantly interact with the players,” he added.

For the team, his biggest strength is one-touch shots at goal without indulging in showboating, a rarity among Indian strikers. The Pro League was Gurjant’s comeback after almost a year. It was deja vu for Gurjant, who has begun the last three years on a positive note, only to fall aside before big tournaments.

In 2019, the lanky forward from Amritsar – he will turn 25 on the 26th this month – suffered a nasal fracture during a practice game before the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, flying back to recuperate. He then came in as substitute for the injured Sumit in the FIH Series Final against South Africa last year and traveled for the Olympics test event but lost his place.

A year before, he was part of the Commonwealth Games side in 2018 before watching the Asian Games and World Cup on television. Unsurprisingly, therefore, he is cautious about celebrating.

“In an Olympic year, with just six months to go, the biggest challenge will be to ensure there are no injuries while also keeping performance levels high. I have missed some very big competitions, only hoping now to be third time lucky,” he smiled.

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