Proud of cricket team’s victory, now it’s our turn: Hockey captain Harmanpreet

The Uncut

Bangalore. Indian hockey captain Harmanpreet Singh is proud of the Indian team’s spectacular victory in the T20 World Cup and he promises that his team will give the countrymen a chance to celebrate in the same way in the Paris Olympics. The Indian cricket team led by Rohit Sharma won the T20 World Cup by defeating South Africa in Barbados, ending the 11-year wait for the ICC title. The champion team was given an unprecedented welcome on its return home.

Indian hockey team captain Harmanpreet, who is busy in camp for preparations for the Paris Olympics to be held at the end of this month, said in an exclusive interview to Bhasha, “As a player, there is nothing bigger than going to a big tournament and winning the World Cup by performing well. The whole country is dancing with you. What can be a matter of greater pride than this.” This 28-year-old drag flicker, who is going to play his first Olympics as a captain but the third Olympics of his career, said, “Our aim is also to win medals in the Olympics and give the same happiness to the countrymen again by winning gold medals. Let us also live these moments with the country. There can be no matter of greater pride for me than this.”

Praising Indian captain Rohit Sharma, he said, “After losing the ODI World Cup final last year, he won the T20 World Cup which is a big deal. Rohit has also had a long journey and has seen many ups and downs. The whole country and we are proud of him.” Harmanpreet, who was part of the team that won a medal after 41 years in the Tokyo Olympics, said, “When we won a medal in Tokyo after 41 years, it was like a tonic for hockey. This time our responsibility has increased and everyone knows how much love and respect we have received after that medal.” He said that he still remembers every moment of the Tokyo Olympics journey and will never forget it.

He said, “The feeling of winning a medal can never be forgotten. We share our experience with the new players who have joined the team that winning an Olympic medal is not easy. They also listen carefully and work hard with full enthusiasm.” The Punjab full back, known as the ‘Captain Cool’ of Indian hockey, said that this helps him in taking the right decisions.

He said, “As a captain, there is a lot of responsibility and only if you remain calm on the field, you will be able to help others. I also try to remain cool during the match and practice and motivate the players to give their best.” Harmanpreet, who has scored 188 goals in 219 matches for India, did not score a single goal in the Rio Olympics (2016) but scored six goals in Tokyo, including the equaliser in the bronze medal playoff match against Germany.

About his journey to the Olympics, he said, “I was also in the junior team in 2016 and it was a proud moment when I got the opportunity to play in the Olympics but we could not play well in the Olympics. The journey started from then. I had a good performance in the last Olympics and would like to continue it in Paris as well.” In the last few years, especially in the Pro League, India’s performance has not been up to expectations and the captain also accepted it.

He said, “In the Pro League, our focus was on analysing the opposing team and not using all the arrows in our quiver. All the drag flickers got a chance in this. It was a good performance but we could have done better.” This player, who is counted among the best drag flickers in the world, said, “We have the best rusher and goalkeeper for PC defence but still drag flick is becoming difficult day by day. We have worked on this. We are analysing the opposing team as to who is their first rusher, what is their technique and how can we bring in variety.”

He said that this time the focus is more on fitness and defense structure, while a lot of work has also been done on finishing inside the D. India has got a tough pool in the Olympics which has giants like Australia, Belgium and Argentina, but the captain does not take any pressure from it.

He said, “There is no pressure. Whatever the pool in the Olympics, every team and every match is important. The first match is against New Zealand and the focus will be on them for now. The performance will have to improve match by match. We are focusing on our team and will play to our strength.” As a captain, he has also explained to the players who are going to play the Olympics for the first time that they should not be distracted by the glamour of the sports village.

He said, “We share our experience with them. There is a lot of glitz in the sports village. They have been told to take care of their recovery because there are continuous matches. They know that they are going for medals, not just to play.” He also appealed to the countrymen to keep faith in Indian hockey and said, “I will only say that you have been with us since the first day and we have always tried to give our best. This time too, we will give our 100 percent from the first to the last match. Keep your faith in us. We will not disappoint you.”

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