Sidelined by injuries since the Champions Trophy in London earlier this year, young India striker Mandeep is desperate to impress the national selectors with his showing in the ongoing men’s Junior Hockey World Cup in a bid to earn his place back in the senior side.
Mandeep became an instant hit following his superb goal-scoring spree in the inaugural edition of the Hockey India League in 2013 which eventually earned him a call in the senior national side for Hockey World League Round 1 in Fiji.
Since then the 21-year-old striker from Surjeet Singh Hockey Academy has been in and out of the senior side because of injuries and dip in form.
Well aware that a comeback won’t be easy now with plenty of competition up for every place, Mandeep is looking to utilise each and every opportunity to impress the Roelant Oltmans-led coaching set-up and the selectors.
“Of late I suffered a lot of injuries. I last played for India in the Champions Trophy in London but then I missed the Rio Olympics with a finger injury. It was a very disappointing moment for me because I was playing well at that time,” Mandeep told PTI in an interview.
“After recovering from the finger injury I suffered a hamstring problem and it kept me out of the reckoning for another 2 months. But now I have completely recovered after going through a rehab in Bangalore for one-and-half months. After World Cup I will play in the Hockey India League. I just want to score more and more goals and in the process impress the selectors and make a comeback in the senior side.”
The senior most player in the junior squad in terms of experience, Mandeep, however, very well knows the importance of a ‘team’.
“I am eager to return to the senior side but I can’t play as an individual in a tournament like the World Cup. I will give my 100 per cent but I can’t play individual hockey,” said the striker stressing on the importance of this tournament for India who are aiming to break their title jinx after a hiatus of 15 years.
Mandeep has been very impressive so far, having scored two goals and earned three man-of-the-match awards.
Even though he started in right earnest in his pursuit of a comeback in the senior side, Mandeep knows he will face tough competition.
“This tournament is very important for me. It is a World Cup and we are hosting it, so we are enjoying a lot. The crowd factor is acting in our favour,” he said.
“Indian hockey has made great progress. There is plenty of competition for every spot. So it will be fun. Not only me but all players will try to give their 100 per cent during a match to impress the selectors.
“All these junior players playing in the World Cup are capable of playing in the senior side and one day will make the cut. Going forward it will be tough for everyone because at present there is plenty of competition for places.”
Mandeep said he is also trying to utilise his experience of playing in the senior side in the ongoing World Cup.
“Whatever drills I have learnt playing with the senior team I am just trying to share those experiences with the junior players here,” he concluded.
The Indian colts have ended their pool engagements with an all-win record and will now play Spain in the quarterfinals on Thursday.