Injuries have never been kind to Chennaiyin FC midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh. When he was drafted in by Chennaiyin FC for the 2015 season of the Indian Super League (ISL), he went on to miss the entire season due to an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury he picked up while on India duty before the season.
This time around, the injury bug has bitten him again (a problem with his left knee) and he looks set to miss the entire 2018-19 season of the ISL. Not only has it adversely affected the reigning champions, it has also seen Ganesh miss out on the chance to play for India in the Asian Cup.
However, the soft-spoken player is still hopeful featuring in the season-ending Super Cup.
"I can't say much about the extent of my injury. Only the doctor can say that. I'm healing well and I have started running now," he said while giving an update on his recovery. "In two months, I should be able to rejoin the first-team practice.
"There is no set date for my return but the doctors and Chennaiyin FC trainers are all working with me to heal the injury as soon as possible. I'm targetting a return by the time the Super Cup starts."
The 24-year-old was one of Chennaiyin FC's key players in their title-winning campaign last season. However, the injury has kept him out of action and Ganesh's physical prowess and aerial impact in midfield has been sorely missed by the South Indian team.
"I felt very bad that I'm not able to help the team when they needed it. I want to apologise to the coach (John Gregory) for not being able to help him. You can't win every season. There will be ups and downs.
"As far as Chennaiyin FC are concerned, I think we have lost a lot of games due to bad luck. But the season is not over. We still have the AFC Cup and we need to focus on it. We also have a lot of games in the ISL as well. And I'm hoping to play a part in the AFC Cup campaign as well."
He went on to rue the fact that he suffered the setback during a very important time that saw India play the Asian Cup after eight years. Especially so, given that he had featured for Stephen Constantine's team during the Asian Cup qualifiers.
"I feel very bad because playing the Asian Cup was a big dream for me. I was happy that I was part of the qualifiers for the same and felt happy when we eventually did qualify. I used to get messages from Sunil Chhetri and co. saying Asian Cup is an important tournament and we need to be prepared for the tough opponents in it. But it was unfortunate that I got injured."
He went on to discuss the Blue Tigers' campaign which ended in heart-breaking fashion with a late penalty conceded against Bahrain sealing their fate. "They played very well in all the three games, compared to previous campaigns and it was hard to get knocked out by a penalty."
The Vyasarpadi-born footballer also claimed that playing top-quality foreigners in the ISL has boosted the confidence levels of the Indian players.
"Definitely. The ISL has a lot of quality foreigners and when you play with them, you learn a lot of things and our confidence and quality increases a lot. Even that could be a reason behind India doing well in the Asian Cup."
The loss to Bahrain also saw Constantine step down from his post and Ganesh was quick to pay a tribute to the Englishman.
"I don't know if the change of manager will have any impact on me. But I feel bad because I played for India during Stephen Constantine's time and I learnt a lot from him. My focus now will be to perform will in competitions like ISL and hope I get selected again in the future."
Ganesh, despite being injured, recently signed a new three-year deal that keeps him at the club till 2022. He shared his excitement at the development while terming Chennaiyin FC his 'dream club'.
"I'm very happy that I signed a long-term contract at Chennaiyin FC because it is a dream club for me. I had always wanted a professional club to come up in Chennai and get the opportunity to play for them.
"I feel proud that the club wanted to keep me till 2022 and I'm thankful to the coach and the management."
The midfielder, who has also played for Chennai City FC in the I-League (2016-17 season), is backing the club to land the silverware at the end of the season. He was also quick to highlight that more clubs need to emerge for the talent in Chennai and Tamil Nadu get exposure.
"I am following Chennai City's campaign. I feel proud because I have played for them and they also represent Chennai and now top the I-LeEague. It shows that Chennai has a lot of qualty players. If such teams had come much earlier, a lot of players would have got opportunities to show their talents."