The captaincy announcement came as a surprise to him but India drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh said on Wednesday he is up for the challenge in the upcoming Olympic Test event.
In the absence of regular skipper Manpreet Singh, who has been rested along with a few senior players, Harmanpreet will wear the captain’s armband in the Test event involving India, Malaysia, New Zealand and hosts Japan.
The tournament starts on August 17. “When I was told that I would be leading the team, it was a pleasant surprise. It is an honour and a big responsibility. I am excited and looking forward to the challenge,” said Harmanpreet, who was part of India’s Junior World Cup-winning side in 2016.
Harmanpreet was one of the youngest in the Indian team that played at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a place he secured after a memorable outing in the FIH Champions Trophy in London only months before the sporting extravaganza.
India won a historic silver medal at the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy, and Harmanpreet was adjudged the Rising Player of the Tournament.
“When I look back, I feel fortunate to have come into the Indian team at a time when there were stalwarts from whom I could learn a lot.
Players like Sardar Singh and VR Raghunath had a positive impact during my nascent days in the senior team and their guidance helped me soak up the pressure of international hockey,” he said.
Talking about the upcoming tournament, Harmanpreet said he is eyeing nothing less than the top spot in his maiden assignment as skipper.
“Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand are good teams to play against and see where we stand as a unit ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers.
Malaysia recently beat Germany in a match and Japan too are doing well while New Zealand is coming into the event with good exposure from the FIH Pro League,” he said.
“In the absence of senior players who are rested, it is important we step up our game. We are well-prepared. We will be playing every match with the intent to win.”