Young forward Abhishek, who made his debut for the India Men’s Hockey Team at the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 matches against South Africa and France earlier this month, said that he learned a lot on the South Africa tour. “It is always a matter of great pride representing your country on the international stage. I felt proud to wear the Indian jersey on the tour and it was a dream come true moment for me,” Abhishek said.
“I learned a lot playing during the matches. It is very different from the style of hockey that I have played before at the national level as it was a lot quicker and more challenging. But I am happy with my performance and I feel I grew a lot as a player,” he added.
The 22-year-old played 3 games in South Africa in which he managed to get one goal. Abhishek said that scoring his first career goal for India Men’s Hockey Team was a memorable moment for him.
“As a player, you always want to score as many goals in your career as you can. But you always tend to remember the first goal. I am pleased I was able to open my account against South Africa and I will never forget that moment,” he said.
Abhishek, who hails from the Sonipat district in Haryana, started playing hockey at the age of 11 when he saw his school friends playing the sport. “I found the sport quite interesting, so I developed an interest in it. Earlier, it used to be just friendly games with my schoolmates, but later, I decided to pursue a career in the sport as my interest kept growing,” he said.
At the start of his hockey career, Abhishek was helped by his school coaches who convinced his parents to allow him to pursue the sport, because of his skills.
“My father is a retired BSF officer, while my mother is a housewife. They were both worried when I started playing hockey as I kept getting injuries. By my school coaches spoke to them and convinced them to allow me to play as they felt I can be a good player,” he revealed.
Abhishek caught the eyes of the India selectors after his performance at the 1st Hockey India Senior Men Inter-Department National Championship 2021, Bengaluru, Karnataka in December. He finished as the 2nd highest goal-scorer in the tournament, scoring 6 goals for Punjab National Bank, and helping his team finish third in the tournament.
“I had a good domestic season in 2021, and I was hoping to be included in the 33-core probable group. But when I found out that I was selected in the squad, I was quite happy and felt that my hard work is reaping rewards now,” Abhishek said.