As many as six national team players were tested positive for COVID-19, including captain Manpreet Singh.

It is troubled times for the Indian hockey players after six of them were hospitalised including the national team captain Manpreet Singh as they tested positive for COVID-19. The other players have suffered mentally and therefore they are being provided psychological counselling. While they are spending their 14-day mandatory quarantine in Bengaluru, the players like SV Sunil and PR Sreejesh are reading tales about Indian sprint queen PT Usha and the historic exploits of Milkha Singh and are also honing their spoken English while washing their own clothes.

Senior members of the Men’s squad, Kothajit Singh and Birender Lakra, along with Sunil and Sreejesh, took turns to speak about the life of PT Usha and the tales about Milkha Singh via a meeting app, to keep the spirits high during these tough times.

“The coaches have divided us in four-five groups. Each group was given the task to read up about a legend and make a presentation on that person,” a player told Indian Express. “Although we have grown up listening to their stories, it was very motivating to learn about their struggles, what kept them going and their motto in life.”

The excellence centre in Bengaluru has been their new home during their preparation for the Olympics but now with the pandemic, the circumstances are very much different. The players have to undergo temperature checks every four hours and also the oxygen levels are checked simultaneously. Food is often served by an attendant outside the room of the players which is then attended by them after five minutes and on finishing their meal the containers have to be disposed. They are even forced to wash their own clothes.

“Another addition to our daily routine is washing clothes. We can’t use the common laundry so each one of us is doing it in our room now,” laughs another player. “When we left the camp in June, we knew we will be quarantined upon returning. So, all of us were mentally prepared for this.”

The quarantine has its different set of challenges and the players have found their unique ways to keep themselves occupied throughout the day. The women’s team are following their usual training regime given by their coaches that can be done indoors while Sunil and company have managed some space to juggle and dribble.

An avid reader like Sreejesh is spending his time reading and writing motivational quotes. There is still another week to go before the players can take the field and resume training as on Wednesday, the Sports Authority of India revealed that the players can start training again from August 19. However, both set of teams will have to wait even longer for competitive matches as there are no international matches coming up and the domestic season is yet to re-start.

“We can think about playing tournaments later. Right now, it will be nice to just resume training,” a player said.

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