Bhubaneswar, June 3: The hunger to wear the India colours again kept me motivated and strong, says striker Ramandeep Singh, who is making a comeback to the national hockey team after recovering from a career-threatening injury that kept him in the sidelines for nearly a year.
Ramandeep has been recalled to the Indian team for the FIH Hockey Series Finals, to be played in Bhubaneswar from June 6 to 15, after recovering from a full thickness condral fracture-injury in the centre of his right knee. He had sustained the injury during India's match against Pakistan at the FIH Men's Champions Trophy in June last year.
India's opening match against Russia on Thursday will mark exactly 348 days since Ramandeep last wore the national jersey. "I think what really kept me strong through this entire period was my hunger to wear the India jersey again. I just did not want to give up on this desire and kept working on gaining full match fitness," said Ramadeep.
"Now that I have been selected and have with me the newly launched India jersey, it reinstates my belief and confidence. I am really excited to play for India again, I have literally counted days for this moment and I will do my best for the team which stood by me during my struggle over the past year."
While India went on to win the silver medal in the Champions Trophy, Ramandeep Singh was forced to return home for an immediate surgery. "When I got my MRI done in the Netherlands, the doctor told me I won't be able to play for the next two years. It came as a real shock to me," recalled the striker.
"It was only when I consulted the doctor in Bengaluru, I was told I can return to action in six months. My injury was of a rare kind as the cartilage and the bone in my ACL suffered an 8mm fracture," explained Ramadeep, who has 124 international caps to his credit.
While the next six months were a battle for Ramandeep both physically and emotionally, he recalled how his teammates supported him during the ordeal. "I remember being in my room at the SAI Centre Bengaluru, not allowed to walk for three weeks. My teammates would bring breakfast, lunch and dinner to my room from the canteen," he said.
"To be dependent on someone for basics was emotionally very challenging but the entire team and the support staff were always there to lift my spirits and motivate me. I had not disclosed about my injury to my family until I could start walking."
The injury kept Ramandeep out of the team for the Jakarta Asian Games as well as the men's World Cup in Bhubaneswar last year. Ramadeep returned to action in the ninth Hockey India Senior Men's National Championship, turning out for his home state Punjab. But a stress fracture in his ankle sustained during the Nationals further delayed Ramandeep's comeback in the national squad.
"My aim was to recover for the men's World Cup but when that didn't happen, I aimed at playing the Nationals to gain match fitness. The entire period was frustrating because when the whole team was away for tournaments, I would work alone on my rehab with the help of the Hockey India support staff," he said.
"When India won matches, I felt happy for the team and when they lost, I felt helpless and wondered if I could have made the slightest of a difference."