Staying focussed as a team in times of adversity is the key to success in a high-profile tournament like the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup, advised Manpreet Singh, captain of India’s Tokyo Olympic bronze medal-winning side to his young colleague Vivek Sagar Prasad.
Defending champions India will open their campaign in the FIH Junior World Cup against France at the Kalinga Stadium here on Wednesday, and Manpreet had some key advice for Prasad, captain of the home team.
“I have spoken to Vivek (Prasad) many times. I told him the main thing for them is to remain as a team,” Manpreet said in a release issued by Hockey India.
“Winning and losing is part of the game. But when we lose, there is a tendency to point fingers, but I told him that the team should not do that and just focus on your game. Just stay as a team. And that will help you win every match.”
Prasad already has the experience of playing at the highest level as he was a key part of India’s campaign in the Tokyo Olympics.
The Indian juniors have been training along side the seniors players as part of preparations for the 16-team marquee event.
“They actually beat us in one of the games we played. I am pretty confident they have the ability to reach the final. And if they continue to play as a team throughout the tournament, they can win the trophy,” said Manpreet.
Another vital member of the Olympic bronze-winning side PR Sreejesh feels the Indian players will miss the crowd factor as the tournament is being held inside a bio-bubble without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The team has been doing fantastic during the last couple of months in Bengaluru. Recently, we played a couple of games against them. They seemed ready to start the tournament,” said the veteran goalkeeper, who was recently conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award along side Manpreet.
“(But) I think the players will miss playing in front of the big crowd. That is the beauty of the Kalinga Stadium, the cheers, the sound, they will miss that. Still, I feel the atmosphere will help them to perform really well and will be a big learning experience.”