He was India's first-choice hockey goalkeeper before a freak eye injury jeopardised his career, but a determined Baljit Singh is in no mood to give up and is eyeing next year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi to stage his comeback in the national team.
Having regained partial vision in his injured right eye after three surgeries in Alabama, United States, Baljit returned home earlier this month.
He said even though not being able to play in the World Cup in February-March next year hurts him, he has already started his preparations for the Delhi Games.
"I know recovering before the World Cup is impossible as the doctors said it will take me 4-5 months more to get back full vision but I am focussing on next year's Commonwealth Games. I hope by then I will be fit to represent India again," Baljit told PTI.
"My eye is now better than before. There is considerable improvement but not that much to play hockey again. The doctors said it will take another 4-5 months for my eye to recover fully, but I have already started light practice and fitness etc," he said.
Baljit was sent to the US in August after a golf ball, with which he was practising in a camp in Pune, sneaked through his helmet's visor and damaged his right eye.
The young custodian said the career-threatening mishap is still fresh in his mind but it can never overpower his determination to wear India colours again.
"The incident still pricks me because everything was going fine and my career was at its peak. I am sad that I could not achieve the goals I had set for myself. I miss my team-mates a lot, so I want to recover as quickly as possible and represent the country once again," Baljit said.
He also expressed satisfaction with his treatment in the US and thanked the government for its continuous support in his hour of crisis.
"My treatment in US was very good. The government and Sports Minister MS Gill have supported me a lot. The Ministry has also assured me of providing the best treatment in India.
"I will have to undergo a cosmetic surgery but the place of the operation is not yet decided," said Baljit, who won the the Meritorious Sports Person of the Year Award for 2008-09 at the ninth Petroleum Sports Promotion Board Awards in New Delhi on Wednesday.
"The government said it will provide me the best medical opinion in the country and if needed they will again send me abroad," he added.