His career began when Indian hockey had reached rock bottom in the aftermath of 2008. But, it ended with the ultimate high of breaking an Olympic jinx after 41 years. From the lows of 2008 in which India’s hockey team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, it was a torturous climb for redemption. But, in Tokyo Olympics 2020, India finally secured a medal. The person behind the ultimate surge was the efforts of one individual who proved to be the pillar of India’s defense. It was his brilliance in the game against Germany that helped India erase years of pain.
Rupinder Pal Singh, one of India’s greatest players, recently announced his retirement from international hockey. In an 11-year career that started from the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, Rupinder helped India scale massive heights in hockey. It was his efforts, along with the likes of a core group of players like PR Sreejesh, Dilpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh in the coming years that India bounced back in style.
In the 2010 edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, Rupinder Pal Singh scored a goal in India’s win over Egypt. It was a fabulous tournament for India as they managed to hold on to the top spot. The final against South Korea was abandoned due to bad weather as both teams were declared the winners. In Rupinder’s first year, the Indian hockey team had already tasted international success.
The Azlan Shah tournament proved to be a happy hunting ground for Rupinder. He was the joint top-scorer in the tournament with six goals. Despite India not entering the final, Rupinder was the star as was included in an All-Star 11. The high points for Rupinder were a hat-trick against Great Britain and scoring the only goal in India’s loss to Pakistan. The 2013 edition of the Azlan Shah tournament saw him becoming the top goal scorer yet again. His top moment came in the fifth-sixth classification match against Pakistan where he scored two goals.
More success came to Rupinder in the coming years. The men’s Asian Champions Trophy saw the best of Rupinder as India secured the gold medal. India reached the final of the Men’s Hockey Challenge in 2011 where Rupinder played a crucial role. Although they faced heartbreak in the final, India’s silver medal showed that they were now competing with the best in the world.
The years 2012 and 2013 were superb for Rupinder. He scored plenty of goals in the 2012/13 FIH World Hockey League Round 2 as well as in the Men’s Asia Cup tournament. The year 2014 was generous for India when it came to hockey in major events like the Commonwealth and the Asian Games. Rupinder played a pivotal role in both. India secured the silver as they lost to Australia in the final. In the following year, Rupinder put up a fabulous show.
In the match against the Netherlands, the match was drawn 5-5 with Rupinder scoring two goals. India secured the bronze medal as they beat the Netherlands on penalties. In later years, Rupinder termed this as one of his best moments.
In the Asian Games, Rupinder scored yet another hat-trick in India’s decimation of Sri Lanka. The final against Pakistan saw the match heading into the penalty shootout. Rupinder was in fine form as he scored a crucial penalty as India won the gold medal. Despite a poor show in the 2016 Rio Olympics, personally, it was a good year for Rupinder.
He was the top goalscorer with 11 goals in the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy while he dominated the four-nations invitational tournament in Melbourne. During this entire period, Rupinder had acquired the reputation of being the ultimate drag-flicker in world hockey. His unique style generated tremendous speed and power which flustered opponents. It was the exploits of Rupinder that saw India benefit on various occasions.
As the years went on, Rupinder continued his excellent run for India. India was inconsistent in all the major events. They suffered heartbreak in the 2018 Asian Games as they lost to Malaysia in sudden death penalty shootouts. Rupinder played a crucial role in the bronze medal progress for India in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
During the clash against Germany, Rupinder was the behemoth of the defensive section for India. He saved some crucial strikes from the German team who were becoming desperate. If PR Sreejesh and Dilpreet were the heroes of the match, then Rupinder’s exploits were simply stunning. India had won a medal for the first time in four decades.
In his entire decade, Rupinder was one of the best in the business. It was his exploits that ensured India had success on the international stage. For the success of India in the last decade, the brilliance of Rupinder is to be credited.