The disappointment of losing to Malaysia in the Semi-Final of the recently held 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang still lingers on at the back of Manpreet Singh’s mind. “It was a tournament we should have won and the disappointment of losing to Malaysia in the Semi-Final still haunts us,” stated the midfielder, who was named the Captain by Hockey India for the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018.
Over the past three weeks, the Indian Men’s Hockey team has been put through the grind at the Kalinga Stadium – the venue for the prestigious quadrennial event Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, Bhubaneswar 2018. Doing well at the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 will be integral in their preparations for the mega event on home soil later this year. Manpreet said, “At the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang, I think we were slightly overconfident that we are Asia’s No.1 team and this complacency is what we need to avoid during the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 if we want to retain the title. Post the Semi-Final loss, the team had several meetings to understand where we went wrong and watched the videos from that match numerous times. When we regrouped for the National Camp, we told ourselves it’s time to move on and we cannot let the past affect our chances at the upcoming two big tournaments.”
The Defending Champions will take on hosts Oman in their opening match on 18 October and play arch-rivals and previous edition’s runners-up Pakistan in their second round robin match on 20 October. The Manpreet Singh-led squad will play 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang Champions Japan on 21 October. The team will take on Malaysia on 23 October followed by the last round robin match on 24 October against Korea. The Semi-Finals will be played on 27 October with the Final to be held on 28 October.
The Captain of the team further stated that the challenging weather conditions in Bhubaneswar will help them acclimatize to the humid playing conditions in Oman. “The playing conditions in Oman will be similar to Bhubaneswar and we are training hard, sometimes train till late in the night as some of our matches start late in the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018. Our aim going into the tournament is simple – We play to our potential against every team without taking anyone including Oman lightly. There won’t be any room for complacency. We have watched videos of how each of these teams play and we are prepared for the challenge,” he said.
Speaking of his own role in the midfield, in the absence of stalwart Sardar Singh who announced his retirement last month, Manpreet said: “I always aim to do my best for the team and what is expected from me by the team. We have youngsters like Nilakanta Sharma who plays beside me and defender Hardik Singh who is making his debut, the seniors constantly talk and communicate on field to help the youngsters and ensure everyone understands each other’s game well. Everyone is putting their best effort in our preparations and we have paid a lot of attention to on-field communication apart from other aspects of the game,” Manpreet concluded.
Indian Men’s Hockey Team list:
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Hardik Singh
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (Vice Captain)
Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh