Bruised and battered but not broken -- Marching towards the historic bronze after a 1-7 thumping against Australia wouldn't have crossed Simranjeet Singh's mind if the Indian camp hadn't treated the defeat as a "wake-up call".
The Indian team was dubbed "listless" after the thrashing as hopes of a medal seem far-fetched and hopes of a third-place finish seemed barely believable at that point. Scars of the 1-7 hammering would've taken years to heal but a resolute unit, with a reliable PR Sreejesh between the sticks and an in-form Harmanpreet Singh up front, revived itself to record three consecutive wins in their Pool A matches.
India brushed aside Britain to enter the semis after 49 years before a 2-5 heartbreak against Belgium ended the team's run in Tokyo. The history-makers, nonetheless, returned from the Games with a bronze, defeating Germany in a thrilling third-place play-off and sparking a nationwide celebration.
Simranjeet, a surprise inclusion in the Indian set-up, netted one against Spain before scoring a brace in the bronze medal match against Germany.
"Defeat against Australia was a wake-up call for us. I think we were in our comfort zones before the loss. We were told by the coach and captain to not complicate things and not expect easy pickings against teams. We had to come out of our comfort zone to put up a challenge for a medal," Simranjeet told India TV Correspondent Vanson Soral.
The 24-year-old was initially not in the original 16-member that coach Graham Reid had announced in June but was included after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed two reserve players to be a part of the contingent.
"After the bronze, we now shift our focus towards upcoming matches that would hone our skills for Asian Games, World Cup and Commonwealth Games," said Simranjeet, who was also a part of India's silver medal-winning team at the 2018 Champions Trophy.