Indian hockey striker is excited to face Olympic-bound teams ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Having enjoyed a fine season that saw them qualify for yet another Olympics, the Indian men’s hockey team will kick-start their Olympic year with an exciting clash against the Netherlands in the FIH Pro League on January 18.
While for the Indians, this will serve as the first taste of the competition that made its debut last year with a hope of taking hockey to the fans, the Dutch will be hoping to do better than the bronze medal that they won in their own backyard after beating Great Britain at Amstelveen in the Grand Final weekend.
The 2020 edition of the Pro League assumes significant importance as it will see the Olympic-bound teams clash ahead of the main event in Tokyo.
For Indian striker Mandeep Singh, that’s something that gets him excited.
“It is a thrilling opportunity to be pitted against some of the best teams in the world just ahead of the Olympics,” he said in a chat with the Olympic Channel.
“These teams will be at the Games in Tokyo and I think the Pro League will give us some idea of what to expect from them. We wish to play with an objective of understanding and studying the other teams’ structure of play.”
It’s this keenness to study the opponent and prepare a plan to counter them that has seen Indian hockey raise their game in the past year.
While one could argue that the Indian men’s hockey team did not face the elite teams in competitive fixtures last year, the Graham Reid-coached side ensured that they worked on their tactical ability to understand and adapt to changing trends during the course of the match.
This tactical awareness has been a standout fixture of the Indian attack in the past year, a department that the Indian hockey striker Mandeep Singh has dominated like none other. For a man who enjoys twisting and turning inside the striking circle to find openings to sound the board, it’s no surprise that the Jalandhar man was the top-scorer for the team last season.
But if you are to ask for the secret behind such a run of form, Mandeep Singh wouldn’t waste any time in crediting his team-mates for the same. “If I am scoring goals then it is because of the assists I am getting from my team-mates,” he said.
“My understanding with seniors (SV) Sunil, Ramandeep (Singh) and Akashdeep (Singh) is much better as we have spent more time together. We discuss and debate a lot off the field and try to analyse how we played and where we could have created gaps and how we need to work inside the circle. This has really helped me a lot to improve as a striker.”
Be it his hunger for goals, or be it his team-mates’ ability to find him around the goalmouth, the Indian hockey fans won’t be the ones to complain as long as the Indian striker is slotting in goals during the Olympic year as well.