Hockey World Cup 2018: India skipper Manpreet Singh eyes a shot at redemption
For Manpreet Singh this is a chance to end five years of hurt, the agony of a World Cup campaign disintegrating at home.
Rewind to 2013 when Manpreet was leading the India juniors at the World Cup in New Delhi. The disappointment of India finishing 10th was made worse by them losing to Pakistan in the classification for minor placings.
Cut to the present and Manpreet, 26, is again leading India at another World Cup, one which is hockey’s Holy Grail. With two wins in as many matches, India have a foot in the quarter-finals. Confirmation should come after the last league matches of Pool C, to be played on Saturday. India host Canada and Belgium will take on South Africa.
“If we talk of 2013 junior World Cup, we were a good team. Many of our team members had already played at the senior level. But somehow we failed to make it to the quarter-finals. Being the host, there were expectations we couldn’t live up. But this time (2018 men’s World Cup) we are optimistic as things are falling in place. If all goes well, we will make the podium in Bhubaneswar,” said Manpreet.
“A medal in Bhubaneswar will not only make up for the loss in the junior World Cup but can also play a pivotal role in popularising the sport. You have seen the enthusiasm of the crowd here. It’s an additional weapon in our armoury and we will not disappoint people this time.”
Manpreet said he was not ready to deal with a World Cup in 2013. “But with age and experience you mature. And maturity plays an important role when it comes to performing at the top level. At the junior level you feel like you have achieved something great when you are named captain but in the senior team, all players are equal and it is all about bonding with one of us wearing the captain’s band.”
Based on the show against Belgium, Manpreet said the momentum is with India. “Though it was a draw, the best part was that we were able to change our style as and when required. This will help us in coming games,” said the skipper who is also a deputy superintendent of police in Punjab.
For now, Manpreet is only looking at full points on Saturday. “Before thinking about the quarter-final and who our opponents in the knockout stage will be, our entire focus is on the last match of the pool stage. Our first target of the World Cup is to top the pool. So, we have no other option than to beat Canada by a big margin,” he said.