Hockey World Cup - Sam Ward 2.0: Finer and fearless

BHUBANESWAR: Blazing down the flank wearing a Zorro-style protective mask, Sam Ward is the opposition’s nightmare. The star England striker is a nuclear reactor of energy when

he takes to the pitch, displaying deft stickwork, trapping aerial balls with precision and scoring from improbable angles. That he does all this with six metal plates and

31 screws holding his face together and only peripheral vision in his left eye boggles the mind. But Ward’s is one of the grittiest comeback stories in modern hockey.

During the Olympic qualifiers in November 2019, Ward was hit on the face by an 80kmph shot by teammate Harry Martin. It left him with a damaged eye and facial injuries, and

he underwent surgeries, including one to reconstruct his cheek. Most believed it was the end of his fledgling career, but Wardmade a stunning comeback three months later.

Injuries have pegged back the 32-year-old’s career significantly with a concussion during training ruling him out of the World Cup here in 2018. But he is back now, with the World

Cup win on his mind. For now, though, Ward is just grateful to be here. “After the injury, the thought that I wouldn’t pick up the stick again crossed my mind many

times. Part of the journey was accepting I wouldn’t pick up the stick again, anything else was a bonus. The biggest help was our team psychologist Katie (Warriner). We both worked

together and felt any kind of success even if it meant being back on my feet again or picking up the stick would be massive,” said Ward, who has made 87 appearances for England.