Forward Akashdeep wants to sharpen decision-making
India hockey forward Akashdeep Singh is a fairly simple man and has an equally uncluttered approach to the sport. He likes to keep things simple, work on his skills and commit fully in every match.
The 24-year-old from Punjab had stepped on to the hockey field following his brother Prabhdeep Singh, a former India international. He rose through the junior ranks to make it to the senior team in 2012 and has slowly become an integral part of the team since, figuring in 183 matches so far.
In the FIH Men’s Series Finals here, Akashdeep has scored five goals in three matches so far. He is the second highest scorer after the preliminary league, behind Russia’s Semen Matkosvkiy, who has scored six. Having helped India top Pool A with three wins in three matches, Akashdeep is now focussed on that one match that may prove the most important—the semi-final, winning which will take India one step closer to the Tokyo Olympics.
“The teams in pool were all ranked lower than India, so our approach was to give our 100 percent in each match. Now, we will play the semi-final, which is the most crucial match in this event as a place in the final would mean a berth in the Olympic qualifiers. So, all my focus is now on that match. I want to do my best,” Akashdeep said in an interview on Tuesday.
India are the top-ranked team in the tournament, and are expected to keep winning, though Akashdeep concedes they have to iron out some aspects of their game. “The team has managed to play according to plan, but yes, there are some areas in which we need to improve. I am sure in the upcoming matches we will improve in these areas. The mental side of the game is one thing we want to improve. We have had some sessions with experts during camps, which has helped,” he said.
On his part, Akashdeep says he tries to maintain positive thoughts and use visualisation of match situations to prepare.
Akashdeep, who is employed by Punjab Police, wants to improve in one particular area. “I want to improve my decision making inside the D (striking circle), make better decisions when to take a shot and when to pass to a teammate.”
Akashdeep says the basics he picked up as a trainee with Guru Angad Dev Sports Club near his village, the PAU Hockey Academy in Ludhiana and the Surjit Hockey Academy in Jalandhar, augmented by the modern hockey skills taught by various Indian and foreign coaches will help him reach greater heights. His talent was recognised early when he attracted the highest bid of $84,000 in the Hockey India League (HIL) players’ auction in 2015.
When he started, Akashdeep had two aims, help his team win medals at the Asian Games and Olympics, a dream all young players nurture when they start their careers.
He has fulfilled one, having been part of the Indian team that won at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014. The Olympic medal will take some effort to achieve, and Bhubaneswar could be the first important step in realising that in Tokyo.