The Arjuna Award winner made his international debut in 2007 at the Asia Cup, which India won after defeating Pakistan in the final.
Veteran India men’s team striker SV Sunil has announced his retirement from international hockey, bringing an end to a 14-year career in which he appeared in 264 matches and scored 72 goals. Sunil’s decision to retire came a day after drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh and defender Birendra Lakra, who played pivotal roles in India’s historic bronze medal-winning campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, announced their international retirements on Friday. Sunil, 32, from Karnataka, was not a member of the team that competed in the Tokyo Olympics. Sunil stated that it was time for him to make way for younger players and contribute to the development of a winning team for the future. The senior player made 264 appearances for India, scoring 72 goals.
“Time to take a break. More than 14 years after I wore India colours for the first time, I have decided to make myself unavailable for the national camp which begins next week,” Sunil said in a statement on his Twitter handle. “It was not the easiest decision to make, but it was not the toughest either, given that I did not make it to the team for the Tokyo Games. The omission put a question mark on my future as a player, in the 11-a-side format. With the 2024 Paris Olympics three years away, I think, as a senior player it is important that I make way for youngsters and help in building a winning team for the future,” he added.
The Arjuna Award winner from Somwarpet, Coorg, made his international debut in 2007 at the Asia Cup, which India won after defeating Pakistan in the final. There was no turning back for the quick striker after that, and he was an integral part of India’s meteoric rise in global hockey. With strong performances, the two-time Olympian (2012 and 2016) remained a key player in India’s forward line for over a decade. He was a member of the Indian team that won gold at the 2011 Asian Champions Trophy and silver at the 2012 event. Sunil also won gold and bronze medals in the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games, as well as gold in the 2017 Asia Cup.
The striker was a key contributor to the team’s historic silver medal wins at the 2016 and 2018 FIH Champions Trophy. Sunil led the forward line in the 2015 World League Final, where the team won bronze, and he was also a member of the team that won bronze in the same event in 2017 in Bhubaneswar. He also has a silver medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games to his name.
“SV Sunil has been an inspiration to an entire generation of young hockey players,” said Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam. “His commitment to the game and discipline was unmatched and he has given Indian hockey some very memorable performances,” he added.
Sunil, however, stated that he will continue to be available to play the game’s shorter version (5-a-side hockey). He described winning gold at the 2014 Asian Games as a watershed moment in his career.
“I am grateful that I represented my country at two Olympic Games — in London in 2012 and in Rio in 2012.Have seen a lot on and off the pitch in the past 14 years. I have battled personal tragedies, career-threatening injuries and other setbacks to remain focussed on giving my best for the country,” Sunil said.