Akash Chikte looks to make it count for India

The goalkeeper is all set to fill in for the injured P. R. Sreejesh in the forthcoming 3-Nations tournament and the Hockey World League semifinals.

India finished third in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, a tournament Chikte participated in.   -  AP

India’s young goalkeeper Akash Chikte is confident of doing well against the world’s best teams, having dished out some creditable performances since his international debut last year at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

Chikte, who had travelled to Kuantan for the Asian Champions Trophy last year as a reserve goalkeeper, stepped up for an injured P.R. Sreejesh. He played a crucial role in India’s 2-1 win over the host Malaysia. India subsequently won the final 3-2 against defending champion Pakistan and Chikte stood up to the pressure of facing the arch-rival.

“It is this exposure over the past year that has helped me a lot. I look forward to good show against the world’s best teams,” said Chikte.

Chikte faced a similar situation this year after Sreejesh was ruled out of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup due to an injury which he sustained while playing against Australia. The team returned from Malaysia with a bronze medal. Chikte feels he is a far better goalkeeper today than a year back.

“After my first tournament for India, I knew there was a lot I needed to work on, starting from improving my confidence level. I had never been in any junior India camp before. I got to play the senior level directly and I knew I was lacking in basics,” said Chikte after a gruelling net session at the ongoing national camp in Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru.

‘Learning experience’

The 24-year-old from Pune is all set to take part in the forthcoming 3-Nations Tournament in Dusseldorf, Germany and Hero Hockey World League Semifinal (Men) in London; India is grouped with Canada, Scotland, Netherlands and Pakistan in the tournament.

While all the pool stage matches will to be high voltage encounters, there will be tremendous pressure when India takes on Pakistan in its third pool match on June 18. “We will look at this as any other match, vying for the three points to advance in the tournament. I have played twice against Pakistan (2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Asian Champions Trophy) and we ended up winning both the matches, so I have a lot of confidence from these matches. I believe it will be a learning experience for me,” he said.

A constant name in the goalkeepers list for India camp, Chikte used the chance to learn from Bharat Chhetri and India’s ace goalkeeper Sreejesh. “I have learnt a lot under them. I used to watch Sreejesh when the national team used to train at Balewadi Stadium, Pune. His reflexes were excellent. I was inspired by him and he has helped me a lot since my first camp.

“Working under Sreejesh and Bharat has been a big advantage for me. My focus at every session now is on stopping penalty corners,” Chikte said.

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