Domestic and international hockey is completely different: Forward Abhishek

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Young Indian hockey forward Abhishek, who made his senior debut at the FIH Hockey Pro League in South Africa recently, has said that playing at the international level is a completely different cup of tea compared to competing at the national level.

India played hosts South Africa and France in the first round of Pro League games, defeating the hosts by big margins in both the games, while losing one of the two games to France.

“I learned a lot playing during the matches. It is very different from the style of hockey that I have played before at the national level as it was a lot quicker and more challenging. But I am happy with my performance and I feel I grew a lot as a player,” said Abhishek on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old forward played three matches and scored a goal as well. He said that being on target in his maiden international assignment was a memorable moment.

“It is always a matter of great pride representing your country on the international stage. I felt proud to wear the Indian jersey on the tour and it was a dream come true moment for me. As a player, you always want to score as many goals in your career as you can. But you always tend to remember the first goal. I am pleased I was able to open my account against South Africa and I will never forget that moment,” he said.

The Sonipat (Haryana) boy started playing hockey at the age of 11. “I found the sport quite interesting, so I developed an interest in it. Earlier, it used to be just friendly games with my schoolmates, but later, I decided to pursue a career in the sport as my interest kept growing,” he said.

At the start of his hockey career, Abhishek was helped by his school coaches who convinced his parents to allow him to pursue the sport, because of his skills.

“My father is a retired BSF officer, while my mother is a housewife. They were both worried when I started playing hockey as I kept getting injuries. By my school coaches spoke to them and convinced them to allow me to play as they felt I can be a good player,” he said.

Abhishek caught the attention of the India selectors after his performance in the 1st Hockey India Senior Men’s Inter-Department National Championship 2021 at Bengaluru, Karnataka in December. He finished as the second-highest goal-scorer, scoring six goals for Punjab National Bank, and helping his team finish third.

“I had a good domestic season in 2021, and I was hoping to be included in the 33-core probable group. But when I found out that I was selected in the squad, I was quite happy and felt that my hard work is reaping rewards now,” Abhishek said.

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