Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], April 19 (ANI): Despite being one of the younger players in the India men's hockey team, Shilanand Lakra held his own among the senior players in Argentina and is happy to contribute whenever opportunities come his way.
Shilanand made his debut in 2018 but the fierce competition for places in the team meant that he had to be patient. Since the resumption of international hockey following a pandemic-hit calendar in 2020, the 21-year-old is happy to be back to international action.
"Having made my debut for the senior team three years ago, I'd have expected myself to play more but that is how competitive it is; there are so many amazing players in the core probable group," said Shilanand in a Hockey India release.
"My aim has always been to earn a place in the team through consistent performances in domestic tournaments, national camps, and whenever I play for India -- as a starter or a substitute," he added.
India won both their FIH Pro League games in Argentina, and two of the four practice matches. Shilanand finished the tour with a goal in the final practice match.
"To be out of competitive action for so long...it gave me the time to re-think and analyse my performances, and also prepare for the highs and lows in the months ahead. I am also constantly in touch with the coaching staff, especially chief coach Graham Reid, who has helped me improve on my game immensely," Shilanand reflected on the Argentina tour.
"I think we played very good hockey against Olympic Champions Argentina. Our recent performances shows that we are in good shape going into a big event like the Olympics. Right now, though, our focus is only on the FIH Pro League games against Great Britain next month," he added.
Shilanand also hailed the influence of Amit Rohidas and senior-pro Birendra Lakra, two other players from Odisha who are also his teammates with the senior team.
"I think both of them have been exceptional and I get so much inspiration when I speak to them. They have always been given me sound advice. I turned to them whenever my morale was low over the past two years and it helps a young player like me to see two other players from Odisha make it big in Indian hockey," Shilanand signed off. (ANI)