No doubt, Hockey India League (HIL) has been an excellent domestic platform for young blood to rub shoulders with international players from across the world. But, some youngsters are finding it difficult to adapt to cut-throat competition at least this season, believes Sardar Singh, skipper of Jaypee Punjab Warriors.
“Some young players easily get jittery if the scoreboard is moving in opponent’s favour. As per the rules, each field goal fetches two points, while penalty conversion gets you one point. If a team is trailing by six points, in reality the rivals have scored only three goals. It spoils their (youngsters) rhythm,” Sardar said.
In Tuesday’s league tie, title holders Punjab Warriors will take on Delhi Waveriders at the Shivaji Stadium here. On the eve of the match, Sardar said the issue “is being addressed during training session”. “Even in the dressing room, youngsters are told to keep calm. There are teething issues which are being addressed to deliver the goods at the right time,” he said.
Perhaps, this could be one of the reasons the Punjab side hasn’t been able to coordinate as unit to enhance its point tally. But Sardar assured a good performance in the coming matches. “Like other teams in the fray, we too have our eyes on the semifinals,” he added.
Sardar admitted that he wasn’t getting any younger, and to keep pace with the youngsters, he had to train smartly. “My system can’t support the kind of rigorous training we followed some 5-6 years back. When you are approaching 30, the key to success at the top level is to avoid injuries. It all comes down to hard training and proper recovery,” he said.
Sardar’s team-mate from Australia, Mark Knowles, 32, also acknowledged the importance of smart training. “Youngsters in the team keep me on my toes. To keep pace with them, I have to train smartly,” the Aussie, who has been competing at the international level for the past 15 years, said.
Knowles also rued the absence of a window for the proposed Australian hockey league, which could feature players from across the world including India. “The proposal is still in the pipeline, and it’s not happening anytime soon due to the cramped international calendar. If this season can’t accommodate it, I doubt it will happen in 2018 because of the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games on home soil,” he said.