For nearly a decade and a half, the speed quotient in the Indian forwardline was provided by SV Sunil. The tall, lanky striker from Karnataka regaled hockey fans across the country as well as abroad with his sizzing linear runs and breathtaking dribbles that left the opposition defence at sixes and sevens. Of course, it is a fact of life that Sunil no longer wears the Indian jersey after having announced a break from international hockey – at 32, the announcement is tantamount to drawing curtains on his illustrious international career that was adorned with 264 international appearances and more than 70 goals. A team man to the core, one cannot overlook his immense goal-creating abilities that have helped his team-mates getting their name on the goal-scorer sheet on so many occasions.
Sunil has given hockey lovers many happy moments on the pitch with his aggression in the opposition ‘D’. He has scored many fabulous goals for the Blueshirts but one goal that will be remain ingrained in the minds of Indian hockey buffs is the one he scored against Australia at Perth in the second of the Four Test series in November 2014. Essaying a Cheetah-like run, from near the half-line on the lift, Sunil raced away on his own largely with his left hand before arriving in the Aussie striking circle and unleased a Tomahawk that brooked no answer from Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell. It was a crucial goal that helped India win the second Test 2-1 after trailing 0-1 at half-time. Former Indian coach and legendary Australian forward Terry Walsh still remembers that Sunil’s goal. “It was a peach of a goal from Sunil. He took the ball from the half-line and motored along – it was such a visual treat – a goal that lifted the spirits of the Indian supporters at the Perth Hockey Stadium as they were trailing by a goal at half-time,” he says in a chat with Hockey Passion.
The four-time World Cupper, who had scored a goal in the 1986 World Cup final win over England at London, has fond memories of Sunil. “Speed was always his forte. He played in the 2014 Asian Games and also in the 2014 World Cup under me as India coach and there is a lot he brings to the Indian side. He is a bit like former Pakistan great Samiullah Khan – quiet, unassuming and thoughtful by nature but on the pitch their pace did the talking,” recounts Walsh.