Feature

Vivek Prasad: the rising star of India hockey

The teenager suffered a collarbone fracture as a 15-year-old but fought through it and became the second-youngest Indian to make his debut just two years later.

By Rahul Venkat ·

A big hockey talent is emerging from India.

Vivek Prasad has already started collecting accolades - and has just won the ‘FIH Rising Star’ award for 2019.

However, despite his meteoric rise, the teenager has his feet firmly on the ground.

This latest recognition of his talents is not going to unduly affect how he thinks about his game.

“I feel happy about it and will hope it spurs me on to do even better for the team going forward,” he said in a chat with the Olympic Channel.

Vivek Prasad’s calm personality is apparent even when he speaks over the telephone, a virtue he developed as a youngster while playing chess with his elder brother and his friends.

The Indian hockey team midfielder’s rise to the senior team has been swift - it took him just six years after first picking up the stick as a 10-year-old.

“I saw the elder kids playing hockey in my village and it seemed interesting to me. A year into playing, I decided that this is something I wanted to make my career in and since then I haven’t looked back,” he stated.

Vivek Sagar Prasad was first named in the Indian hockey men’s squad in 2018 for a four-nation tournament and later replaced former captain and legend, Sardar Singh, in the Commonwealth Games squad.

In between, he also led India to the silver medal in the Youth Olympics but all of it seemed a distant possibility just three years ago.

Overcoming a life-threatening injury

Vivek Sagar Prasad was enjoying a purple patch in 2015 and was a virtual certainty to be included in the Indian hockey squad for the 2016 Junior World Cup but it was cruelly cut short. In fact, not just his career, his life was on the line.

In a practice match, the midfielder was accidentally struck on the shoulder by a fellow player when the latter looked to retrieve the ball. The blow was so fierce that it broke the collarbone and the youngster was rushed to a nearby hospital.

The operation did fix the bone but the recovery ran into a few complications and doctors kept the then 15-year-old under observation in intensive care for more than three days.

However, his protective family kept him away from any negative thoughts.

“My parents and brother never revealed how serious the injury was. I had also sustained an abdomen injury then but they claimed it was a normal thing and I could return to the field soon,” he said.

While they may have told that to to keep him calm, Vivek Sagar Prasad did return to the sport just three months after that horror period. He made his comeback to the junior team in 2017 and captained the side at the Sultan of Johor Cup.

The senior team had been keeping an eye on him all throughout this period and they called him up in January 2018. That same month, he became the second-youngest Indian to make his debut at 17 years 10 months and 22 days, falling short of stalwart, Sandeep Singh’s record by just 11 days.

Impactful performances

Since then, Vivek Prasad has chalked up 60 appearances for the senior team and his style of attacking play gels in well with head coach, Graham Reid’s strategies.

The 19-year-old idolized Manpreet Singh while growing up and the captain, he revealed, was one of the seniors who helped him settle into the team, along with PR Sreejesh and Chinglensana Singh.

He has been a pest in opposition circles in the four matches against the Netherlands and Belgium in the FIH Pro League, scoring a goal in the process.

In the penalty shoot-out against the Dutch, he was the first Indian to put away his penalty after both Harmanpreet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh had missed and it spurred the team to victory.

He will be hoping to continue that streak against multiple-time world champions, Australia as the Indian hockey team faces its third tough test at the FIH Pro League on February 21.

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