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Hockey World Cup 2018: Every player a captain in Manpreet Singh’s team

With exactly two weeks left for the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup, India chief coach Harendra Singh is leaving no stone unturned to prepare his side for the mega quadrennial event.

From rigorous training and practice periods to reenergising yoga sessions, the squad is readying itself for the November 28-December 16 event here. To add to it, the 23-day national camp at the Kalinga Stadium will also act as a major advantage as the team acclimatises itself to the turf that will host the event.

“Our preparations are on the right track. We did quite well at the Asian Champions Trophy and got to learn a lot there. We are readying ourselves for the World Cup. Practicing here is definitely an advantage,” said India captain Manpreet Singh.

“First of all, this is our home ground and then we have been practising on this turf for quite some time. Our basic skills of hitting or stopping improve a lot because of this which will help us during the World Cup. The turf is new and nice. It’ll be good for the tournament.”

Like several other positions in Hockey India (HI), the post of India captain has also played several rounds of musical chairs this year. Manpreet, PR Sreejesh and former international Sardar Singh have all been India skipper at different times until it was finally decided that the 26-year-old would lead the team at the World Cup.

But does constant change in captaincy affect a player’s mentality or approach?

“Personally I have never felt that. Earlier it was Sreejesh but injury forced him out of the team. Then I became captain. Hockey is a team game; nobody in our team feels that if someone is wearing the (captain’s) band he will be different. We are not worried about who is wearing the band,” said the midfielder.

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“From the goalkeeper to the striker, everyone is responsible on the pitch. Apni jagah par har koi captain hai (Everyone is a captain in their zone). So with us it is not that if someone is captain only he will decide everything because all decisions are taken as a team; whatever is good for the team we go for that.”

Though without the experience of forwards SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh, and defender Rupinder Pal Singh, Manpreet is still confident of the 18-member squad he has been handed.

“It is always like this. In earlier tournaments too there has always been a mixture of experience and youth. It is the same this time. Birendra Lakra, Akashdeep Singh, Chinglensena Singh, me, PR Sreejesh, Harmanpreet Singh, two-three new players have also shown why they are worthy of being selected. That is why they are in the team,” said Manpreet.

“No point looking into who is not there. We can’t be talking about that. Our focus is on the tournament because we have very less time. Rest of the players are in the team because they are good.”

India have been pooled with Belgium, Canada and South Africa with the top team going through to the quarter-finals. The second and third placed teams will enter crossover games to qualify for the last-eight.

“Group stage or not, in the World Cup no team is easy and can be underestimated. All come to win. So we cannot say that Canada or South Africa are weak. Our focus is to go match-by-match and step on to the pitch to win. We don’t focus on the format; we only see who we are facing next and that we have to win.”

First Published: Nov 13, 2018 22:22 IST

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