Rejuvenated Birender Lakra counts his blessingsNovember 22, 2017
BENGALURU: There’s a tattoo of an angel and a cross on Birender Lakra’s right forearm. The 28-year-old Indian hockey player got himself inked last year after injuries forced him out of the game twice in as many years. The angel is a symbol of hope and a brighter tomorrow which the dependable defender has worked towards with success. The result: the London Olympian is set to make a comeback after a year at the Hockey World League Final on his home turf – Bhubaneswar – next month.
It has been a long and rough climb back from injuries for the seasoned Odisha player who suffered a ligament (ACL) tear in his right knee during the Hockey India League in February 2016 before an issue with one of his quadriceps meant he was out of the team again after the Australian tour in November last year.
Having lost out on the opportunity to represent the country at the Rio Games, Lakra wants to make up for lost time. His inclusion is a boost for the Indian backline, which is already without their mainstay goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
With Rupinderpal Singh -another player on the comeback trail – Lakra forms a formidable defence, the duo being a combination of power and tactics.
On the eve of the team’s departure from their training base here, Lakra said, “Before the team was announced, I gave myself 80-20 chance of making the squad because the level of competition within the team has gone up with the junior players coming in and also, I haven’t played in an international competition for a year.”
The ration stemmed from his positive mental make-up. “I knew comeback from injuries is always tough but I didn’t lose hope even when I had back-to-back injuries. A lot of credit goes to my family, coaches and teammates, who backed me,” explained Lakra, who during the injury-forced break got married and also became a father last month.
When the chips were really down, Lakra listened to slow numbers in Hindi and Sadri, an Odisha dialect and did not shy away from seeking professional help. “The team management had arranged psychological counselling sessions for me. That helped me in becoming mentally stronger and getting over selfdoubts