New Delhi: He was the numero uno goalkeeper for India before a slump in form cost him his place in the national hockey team, but former captain Bharat Chetri insists he is not finished yet and there is plenty of fire in his belly to make another comeback.
Chetri was the captain of the India team in the London Olympics, an event which eventually turned his career upside down.
Following India's disastrous last-place finish in London, Chetri and a host of seniors including Sandeep Singh, Tushar Khandekar and Shivendra Singh were sidelined.
"I have gone through such a phase many times in my 12 years career, but every time I was dropped it made me more determined. I made successful comebacks every time I was dropped and this is no different," Chetri told PTI in an interview.
"I am not yet finished. If I give my 100 per cent I can always return to the side. I believe in hockey there is no age barrier for goalkeepers. The prime example of the fact is P T Rao, who made his debut for India at the age of 34," he said.
Chetri, who will represent Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the upcoming Hockey India League, is pinning his hopes on the franchise-based event to make a statement of sorts.
"No doubt HIL is a golden opportunity for out-of-favour players to make their mark. I know if I perform well, if I emerge as the best goalkeeper then I can don the national colours again.
"The door is still open for me," said the 31-year-old custodian, who went unsold in the HIL players auction, but was later acquired for USD 19,000 by the Warriors.
For Chetri playing alongside top Australian players and under coach Barry Dancer in the Punjab team will be a dream-come-true opportunity.
"I always had a liking for Australian style of hockey. I love the way Australians play. So it is a privilege for me to play with six top Australian players, including Jamie Dwyer. It will enhance my own game as I can learn a lot from them," he said.
Like others, Chetri too hopes that the HIL, to be held from January 14 to February 10, will benefit Indian hockey immensely.
"It is the youngsters who will get the most benefit from HIL. In my 12-13 years career, I haven't seen anything as big as this.
"It is big for Indian hockey. HIL will provide an opportunity to our domestic players to play and learn from top international players and coaches," he said.
Asked whether he was heart-broken after he went unsold in the HIL players' auction, Chetri said: "I don't think about all these things. My only aim is to play hockey and I an happy as long as I am playing.
"I have achieved what I wanted to do, that is play for India."