When it comes to the World Cup, drag flicker Sandeep Singh does not have fond memories.
The young penalty corner specialist missed the last edition at Monchengladbach in 2006 due to a freak accident just before the team’s departure to Germany.
Sandeep was travelling by train from Chandigarh to join the team in Delhi when the gun of a CRPF soldier, sitting behind him, went off accidentally and the bullet hit him on the back. The injury meant he was not able to play his first World Cup.
Four years later, Sandeep is a vital cog in India’s plans at the 12th edition, starting at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Sunday. As the team’s main drag flicker, a lot depends on Sandeep’s performance, as penalty corners are the main mode of scoring in modern hockey.
Though Diwakar Ram and Dhananjay Mahadik can also take the short corners, Sandeep will be the main man.
India have thought out several strategies for penalty corners, including indirect drills, and will be using them in case things don’t work out with Sandeep’s flicks.
So, what should Sandeep do in order to fulfil the team’s aspirations?
For a start, he has to be in top shape as he is also one of the three fullbacks. Consistency with the flicks is a must because wasted opportunities can be the difference between victory and defeat.
“Nowadays, penalty corners are a main scoring weapon and teams that utilise their chances do well. Sandeep will be the key for India when it comes to PCs,” said Jugraj Singh, a former India drag flicker whose career with the national team ended when he got injured in a road accident.
Sandeep is more-or-less in a similar position. He has comeback successfully from the injury that kept him out of the Champions Challenge I at Salta and a lot is expected of him.
“He will have to work with the goalkeeper to perfect his art, strengthen his flicks and be more consistent,” said Jorge Lombi, former Argentine legend and now the assistant coach of that team.
Jugraj said Sandeep would have to study the videos of rival goalkeepers and spot weaknesses. “It is good to know which side the goalkeeper is usually strong and then target his weak areas.”
Sandeep would need to improve his conversion rate and be more consistent. “A good strategy for penalty corner conversion is vital as PCs are very important in modern hockey,” said Jugraj.