Harmanpreet Singh has come a long way

The trip to Rio de Janeiro as part of India’s Olympic contingent was perhaps the icing on the cake and the latest nomination in the Rising Star category of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Hockey Stars awards is an emphatic vindication of all of that Harmanpreet has achieved thus far.

The results of his tutelage under Oltmans and the experience gained with the senior team are what Harmanpreet Singh wants to share for the good of the juniors.   -  K. Murali Kumar

From being the top-scorer in India’s triumph at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia in 2014 to playing a great hand in India winning the Junior Asia Cup last year to being named the Best Junior Player at the Champions Trophy in June, Harmanpreet Singh has come a long way.

The trip to Rio de Janeiro as part of India’s Olympic contingent was perhaps the icing on the cake and the latest nomination in the Rising Star category of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Hockey Stars awards is an emphatic vindication of all of that he has achieved thus far.

“Things have changed a lot,” said the 20-year-old at the SAI Centre where the Indian junior team is preparing for the upcoming World Cup at home. “I have been with the senior team and learnt a lot. They would point out at the mistakes I was making and help me out. I also learnt from our opponents in the Olympics — strong teams like Germany, Belgium.”

Coach Roelant Oltmans, under whom Harmanpreet made his senior debut, thinks of him as a complete package and the award nomination, “a just recognition of his talent.”

“Under heavy pressure, he stays calm,” Oltmans said. “He has good vision, knows exactly what to do, when to do. Good penalty corner as well. What more do you want?”

The results of his tutelage under Oltmans and the experience gained with the senior team are what he wants to share for the good of the juniors.

“When I came back from the senior team, juniors would ask me what the differences were,” he said. “I shared all the good things. I have sat with everyone, spoken to everyone and tried to help as much.”

“But that doesn’t mean I have changed,” he clarified smilingly. “I just have a bit more experience. But I am the same as I was before. I will continue to be like this — just play my normal game and guide when needed.”

As a drag-flick specialist, Harmanpreet’s role may well be much more pronounced as India’s share of goals from penalty corners is often high. Training with Rupinder Pal Singh and V. R. Raghunath would have helped sharpen his skill further.

“I would not say it adds pressure,” he said of his role. “But it is one of our plus points. In training the methods that they [Rupinder and Raghunath] use and what I do are same. But their experience is huge. The coach gives a lot of inputs. Sreejesh, as a goalkeeper, gives a lot of information too.”

On Tuesday, all this was evident during a practice match between the seniors and the juniors, with Sreejesh in particular, perched atop a raised platform behind the goal, and monitoring the players’ movements. For Harmanpreet, these are the kind of exchanges which are crucial ahead of the World Cup.

“We are going with the aim to win a medal,” he declared. “We have been together for three years. These are the 10 days to perform. It’s time to show the results.”