Young midfielder Manpreet Singh (21), who was named captain on Tuesday for 18-member junior Indian hockey squad for the six-nation third Sultan of Johar Cup to be played at Johor Baru in Malaysia, has his eyes set on gold which India missed narrowly in the previous edition of the tournament.
He speaks his mind on the tournament preparations before leaving for the 10-day training camp in New Delhi.
HT: How do you feel about leading the country once again?
MS: It is always a pleasure to lead your country in any sport. This would be my third international tournament as a captain. In the last year, we missed the gold narrowly as we lost to Germany by 3-2, but we will try harder this time.
HT: What are your prospects this time?
MS: Our spirits are definitely high. We will try to hit the top position this time. As many as nine players have been selected in the team of 18 players and eight of them are from Surjit Hockey Academy. I have good rapport with all of them being the student of academy myself. Besides these we also have players like Satbir Singh, Kothajit, Amit Rohidas, Mandeep Singh and Prabhdeep Singh, who also have international exposure at senior level.
HT: How have been the preparations of the team?
MS: We all are having good rapport with the coaching styles of foreign coach Gregg Clark and Baljeet Singh Saini. All are full of enthusiasm and roaring to show their excellence in the tournament. All the teams participating in the tournament are full of talent and any team can win on a specific day but our hopes are high. We are not over-confident but focused. A 10-day training camp for the team is going to start from September 7 at Major Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium at New Delhi. There we would chalk out team wise strategy for the tournament.
HT: Tell us about your game journey so far.
MS: My father Baljit Singh is a farmer and mother Manjeet Kaur is a housewife. My elder brothers Amandeep Singh and Sukhraj Singh are also hockey players and they have represented Punjab in several national tournaments. My family supported me well to adopt this game and under the guidance of Surjit Singh, a hockey coach from Punjab Police, I learned the basics of game. In 2005, I joined Surjit Hockey Academy and since then I am attached with this academy to enhance my skills.
HT: Who is your idol in modern day hockey?
MS: It is German midfielder Morris. I am impressed with his attacking skills. He handles the ball quite brilliantly.
The six-nation tournament, going to start in Malaysia from September 22, will feature Argentina, England, India, Korea, Malaysia and Pakistan.
India finished runners-up in the last edition of the tournament played in 2012.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Harjot Singh, Sushant Tirkey Defenders: Amit Rohidas, Jarmanpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Sukhmanjit Singh, Pardeep Mor Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (captain), Prabhdeep Singh, Harjit Singh, Satbir Singh, . Imran Khan Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Amon Mirash Tirkey, Mohammad Amir Khan, Talwinder Singh, Affan Yousef (Vice-Captain) Standbys: Jagdeep Dayal (Goalkeeper), Dipsan Tirkey (Defender), Gurmail Singh (Defender), Stanli Minz (Midfielder), Lalit Upadhayay (Midfielder), S.K. Uthappa (Midfielder), P L Thimmanna (Forward), Ramandeep Singh (Forward), Malak Singh (Forward).