S. Kumar dons national colours in a match against Japan in 2011. He is now the first choice goalkeeper for Uttra Pradesh Wizards in the month-long Hockey India League.
KUALA LUMPUR: National goalkeeper S. Kumar was the toast of the Hockey India League when he was named the man of the match after putting up a sizzling performance to steer Uttar Pradesh Wizards to upset defending champions Ranchi Rhinos 3-2 in the opening match.
For his efforts, the Tampin-born player received 25,000 rupee (RM1,324).
Kumar failed to cement a spot for the Wizards in the inaugural edition last year, as he was only fielded in one match throughout the month-long tournament.
However this season, head coach Roelant Oltmans of Holland fielded the Malaysian number one keeper in the opening match on Sunday and he did not disappoint.
The 34-year-old Kumar, who has 208 international caps, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he was happy to start as the first choice keeper in the league.
“Last year, I only played one match in the entire league. I thank coach Oltmans for having faith in me.
“I never thought I would be named the man of the match. It has inspired me to play even better in the other league matches,” said Kumar, who was named Asia’s best player in 2010.
He is confident he will benefit from playing in the league, which has attracted world class players from all over the world.
“My mission now is to help Uttar Pradesh Wizards reach the final after finishing third last season,” said Kumar, who also plays for Tenaga Nasional in the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL).
Five teams featured in the Hockey India League last year. This year, there are six teams in the fray.
Two other Malaysian players are also featuring in the league. Forward Faizal Saari and defender Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim are both playing for Mumbai Magicians, under Australian coach Ric Charlesworth.
The Magicians lost their opening match 5-3 to Punjab Warriors on Sunday.