One of the most experienced players in the Indian men’s hockey team, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay brings so much to the forwardline but he was conspicous by his ‘absence’ in the first four games of the 2022-23 FIH Pro League – he is now also not part of the 23-member Indian squad for the upcoming five Test series tour of Australia.
The 28-year-old Varanasi lad sustained a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Grade II knee injury while representing Uttar Pradesh in the 36th National Games in Gujarat. The injury forced him to miss the men’s hockey final at the 36th National Games, where Uttar Pradesh led Karnataka 2-1 but they let in a late goal (five minutes before the final hooter) and subsequently went to lose in the shootout. Lalit played his part in Uttar Pradesh’s semifinal against Maharashtra, which ended in a 3-3 stalemate in regulation time. It was the experience of Lalit that benefited Uttar Pradesh as he essayed a crucial converion in sudden-death to give his state a 6-5 win and a place in the final.
Lalit has been advised adequate rest before he can return to competitive hockey. The gangling forward is going through his rehab process at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex in Bengaluru. “Injuries can happen to players and there is never a right or wrong time for injuries and as players we just have to live with it,” says Lalit in a chat with Hockey Passion.
The expereinced forward is bullish about returning to the hockey action soon. “I have started light training and would soon intensify my training sessions. I hope to mark my return to hockey action over the next two-three weeks,” he intimated.
It may be worth recalling that Lalit was part of India’s bronze-winning 2021 Tokyo Olympics team – he also featured in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, where India had finished 9th and 6th respectively. He was also a member of the national side that won bronze in the 2018 Asian Games. Lalit also played his role in India winning the gold at the 2017 Asia Cup.
One hopes that Lalit recuperates and makes his third World Cup appearance in front of the home crowd in January at Bhubaneshwar and Rourkela. The Indian men’s hockey team would need his rich reservoir of experience at the marquee event.