India's prospects in the upcoming Asia Cup hockey tournament were dealt a severe blow after star forward S V Sunil had to be ruled out of August 24-September 1 event due to an elbow injury.
Sunil has become the latest casualty after injuries forced strikers Akashdeep Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Gurwinder Singh Chandi also to sit out of the all-important tournament.
Sunil, a livewire on the turf and a certain pick for the Asia Cup, suffered a ligament tear on his left elbow last Friday during the preparatory camp at the SAI centre in Bangalore and has been advised rest for six weeks.
"I suffered the injury during Friday's training session. I slipped and collided with the goalkeeper and tore the ligament of my left elbow. The doctor has advised me six weeks rest," Sunil told PTI.
"It's very disappointing that I will miss such an important tournament like the Asia Cup. But there are some things which are out of our hands. I will pray that we come out winners in the Asia Cup, which will secure our ticket to next year's World Cup. There is no reason why we can't win the tournament. The boys are really working hard," he added.
After having failed to secure a direct berth in the FIH World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands from the FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam, India will now have to win the Asia Cup, to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia to qualify for next year's mega-event.
But injury concerns seemed to be hounding the team even before departing for the tournament.
While Akashdeep's suffering from a career-threatening shin-splints injury, 20-year-old Gurwinder has been out of competitive action for more than six months now following an ankle injury sustained during the inaugural Hero Hockey India League. Danish, on the other hand, recently underwent a knee surgery and will be out of action for the remainder of 2013.
Meanwhile, the ongoing national camp will restart in New Delhi from tomorrow after Hockey India decided to abandon the Sports Authority of India, South Centre yet again because of the worn-out Polytan turf there.
The turf at the SAI Centre in Bangalore has long gone past its expiry date and has become slippery, raising general apprehension that it is impossible to go all out on the pitch without inviting injuries.
Niggles have been the order of the day and last week only, Gurmail Singh, Harbir Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh sent the team think-tank into a tizzy when they sustained minor injuries during the training.
Interestingly, in April last year, India's former chief coach Michael Nobbs had ruled the turf at the South Centre unsuitable for high-intensity training and had forced the mandarins of Hockey India to shift the senior camp out of Bangalore.