MUmbai, Sep 30 (IANS) Rupinderpal Singh and Birendra Lakra, two members of the Indian mens hockey team that won a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, have decided to hang up their sticks, calling time on an illustrious career as the Indian team remains on a break after the Olympics due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Drag flicker and defender Rupinderpal made the announcement first and Lakra followed suit. Both Rupinder and Birendra were brought back into the team in the last two years after a couple of ye’r’s gap. They played a stellar role in Tokyo, helping the team win an Olympic medal in hockey after a gap of four decades.
The indian team was to participate in the Asian Champions Trophybut that was postponed due to the pandemic. The players also seem to have realised that they have achieved all the major things that the sport has to offer. Their decision will impact the Indian team as it loses two key defenders.
Rupinder, who made his international debut in 2010, scored four goals in the Olympics and was the second-highest goal-scorer in the team. Overall, he has scored 119 goals in 223 senior international matches.
Fondly known as ‘Bob’ by his teammates, Rupinder featured in’India’s important feats in the past decade, which includes the Gold Medal-winning feat at the 2014 Asian Games, 2016 Asian Champions Trophy triumph, 2015 Bronze Medal-winning FIH Hockey World League Final, and 2017 Bronze Medal-winning FIH Hockey World League Final.
The milestones in his Illustrious career included scoring the most number of goals in the 2013 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and 2016 Asian Champions Trophy. After a break in 2018-19, the lanky drag-flicker made a strong comeback in the 2020 Olympic Qualifiers and scored his first hat-trick since the 2018 Asian Games.
Lakra was the joint vice-captain of the team at the Tokyo Olympics and a key defender. Lakra has represented India in 201 matches, scoring 10 goals.
A product of SAIL Hockey Academy Rourkela, Lakra has represented India at the 2009 Youth Olympic Festival held in Sydney, the 2009 Junior World Cup, the 2010 SAAF Games in Dhaka, and the 2011 Champions Challenge tournament in South Africa.
Having progressed through the ranks, Lakra made his debut for the senior national team in the 2010 South Asian Games and has been part of India’s various memorable moments such as the 2014 Asian Games glory, bronze medal feat in the World League Final 2015 in Raipur, silver medal-winning campaign at the 2014 Commonwealth Gam’s and FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019.
In his long-serving career, the two-time Olympian has featured in almost all the major tournaments, inclu’ing the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2014 and 2018 respectively. However, he missed out on the Rio Olympics 2016 due to a knee injury and made a strong comeback to the Indian set-up by playing a pivotal role in the team’s Gold Medal-winning feat at the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy.
Lakra, who stood tall in India’s defence line at the quadrennial Games, also achieved the milestone of completing 200 Senior International Caps for the National team.
Hockey India has congratulated both Rupinderpal Singh and Birendra Lakra for their contributions to the Indian team and wished them luck for future endeavours.