Experienced Indian centre-back and drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh feels that the six-month injury lay-off has helped him mature as a hockey player and perceive match situations differently as he gets ready for "a fresh start" at the Hockey World League (HWL) Final here, starting Friday.
Rupinder was troubled by a hamstring injury in his right leg just before the HWL Semi-Final in London in June. He last played for India in the Azlan Shah Cup in April-May this year before being named in the national squad for the eight-nation HWL Final.
Rupinder felt that he got enough time to analyse his game during the injury period.
"This is a fresh start for me. I am playing after a while and my intent is to bring a lot of energy on the field. I have learnt new things during this injury period and one of the biggest changes is how I perceive a match," Rupinder said.
"I want to bring a positive energy into the game and have an attitude that makes you stand firm against the opponent, communicate more at the back. I have waited for this moment very patiently and I am eager to do well here," he added.
The lanky defender from Faridkot in Punjab, however, hasn't lost his goal-scoring touch as he gave ample proof of it after scoring twice in the warm-up game against Olympic champions Argentina. India then played a 1-1 draw against England at the Kalinga Stadium.
While the Indian team's attack is on the rise in their recent performances, the players understand the importance of defence too, explains Rupinder.
"Personally, defence is my top priority. My belief is that defence wins matches and it's not that just defenders need to protect our goal post, it is the entire 11 who need to ensure we don't concede and that's exactly what we are focused on," expressed the 27-year-old.
Apart from his own role as drag-flicker and defender for India, Rupinder also plays the role of a mentor, guiding youngsters Varun Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Dipsan Tirkey and Amit Rohidas in the backline.
"They know their role well and execute them to perfection but as a senior I motivate them to get the best out of them and they too keep me in high spirit," he stated.
On Friday, India will take on defending champions Australia in their opening Pool B match.