Indian football team winger Ashique Kuruniyan has been an integral part of the national team for the last few years. Since his debut in 2018 as a youngster integrated into the side, he has scored two goals for the Indian national team. The Malappuram-born footballer has made over 30 appearances with the national team, establishing himself as a crucial member.

Currently, Kuruniyan finds himself sidelined for several months due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained during India's King's Cup match against Iraq in Thailand.

"I suffered an ACL injury in my knee when we were playing in the King's Cup in Thailand. I twisted my knee during the game against Iraq, and this happened. I did the surgery, and now my rehabilitation program is going on," Kuruniyan stated in an interview given to Suyash Upadhyaya on Instagram.

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"Normally, they say an ACL injury takes eight months to heal, but it depends on the person, like how the body responds to the surgery," he added.

Kuruniyan made his national team debut under former head coach Stephen Constantine. He had become a mainstay under head coach Igor Stimac and was eagerly anticipating participating in the AFC Asian Cup again after featuring in the 2019 edition. Unfortunately, his plans were thwarted by the ACL injury that ruled him out of action. 

"I was excited to play in the AFC Asian Cup, but unexpected things do happen in football, and there is nothing we can do about it," Kuruniyan said.

The Mohun Bagan Super Giant player revealed how Stimac offered him encouragement and support soon after his injury.

"I talked to the national team head coach Igor (Stimac) after this injury. He asked me about my return and by when I can start training on the pitch," he recalled.

"I told him that I am not sure about the time frame, to which he said that he will be the happiest man when I return on the pitch," he added.

2023 was a good year for the Indian national team, where they won three trophies and defeated strong teams like Kyrgyz Republic, Kuwait and Lebanon on the way. 

Kuruniyan recognised India's strength and feels the upcoming AFC Asian Cup will further improve the national team. He feels that India's bench strength is stronger than it has ever been. 

"I feel that this is the best time to improve the quality of our national team. We can play in bigger tournaments, and we have more options on the bench," he said.

"Whenever we have injuries in the team, I feel that we have good, and maybe better, options on the bench who can add a new dimension to the team. We have different options for different types of opposition, and that helps our squad," he further said.

The Blue Tigers will face Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria in the group stages of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 in Qatar. Despite understanding the tough nature of these matches, he has confidence in the squad's abilities.

"The best result for us against Australia would be a win. However, it will be a tough game," he said.

"I believe that our players are fitter; half of the season is done, and the players are in good condition," he further said.

"I feel that they are working hard on the training ground," he added.

Kuruniyan had just one message for the side, and that is to give their all in every game and not worry about the results.

"My message to the players would be to play with their hearts in every game. The results might not be certain, but the effort needs to be there on the pitch," he said.