Mumbai: The Indian hockey team are heading to the upcoming Hockey World Cup fresh from their shared triumph at the Asian Champions Trophy.
And their captain Manpreet Singh is confident of the hosts putting up a positive show in the tournament starting next Wednesday in Bhubaneshwar.
India are grouped in a tricky Pool C which consists the likes of South Africa, Belgium and Canada.
Ahead of their tournament opener against the Proteas in less than a week, Manpreet, a Red Bull athlete, gave his thoughts on various topics, including his relationship with new coach Harendra Singh and the retirement of Sardar Singh.
1) Your team will be playing the World Cup in home conditions. Do you think that will be an added advantage in the tournament?
Obviously, the crowd support is going to be a major factor for us as we are the host nation. We have always received great support here in Bhubaneshwar and we are expecting the same kind of support as we are representing the nation in a big tournament like the World Cup.
2) Do you think SV Sunil’s and Rupinder Pal Singh’s experience would have been an added advantage in the team?
Well, they are really experienced players and experience is always valuable but I am accompanied by some really talented players like Hardik Singh, Nilkanta Sharma, Chinglensana, Sumit Kumar, who are doing really well and they make things easier for me. They are very fit individuals who are good with the ball. We all will try and do our best and pass the ball to the forwards.
3) You have played games under PR Sreejesh’s leadership for India. Now you are leading the side. How much valuable his inputs have been?
PR Sreejesh has been very supportive and his experience has been invaluable to me. He has given some real insights which have been useful. He has put his belief in me and I think we are young team so his experience will help the team as well.
4) Were you surprised by Sardar Singh’s sudden retirement?
Yes I was very surprised when he announced his retirement. I did not know about it because we were playing the Asian Games together. I came to know when we came back from the tournament. It is his personal decision, he is a senior person in the team and an experienced player and he would know his priorities. I have really enjoyed playing with him, he really motivated me and told me to keep things simple. I used to call him Paaji and used to look up to him as he was a great leader and a motivator.
5) Since Harendra Singh took over as coach, he has shown a lot of confidence in you. What has been his impact on you?
It has been a good journey with him so far. We started from the Champions Trophy and we played really well in that tournament. Yes, we did have a disappointing campaign in the Asian Games but that is part and parcel of the game. He has bought real positive vibes in the dressing room, he backs every player to play to their strengths and focus on their game. He also motivates us by believing that we can beat any team in this competition.