Harmanpreet Singh: Leading India to victory an immensely proud moment for me

The drag-flicker tasted success in his maiden stint as India captain, leading his side to victory in the Olympic Test event.

Harmanpreet Singh: “The team is now quite focused on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh is a proud man after having led India to success in his maiden stint as captain of the national team in the Olympic Test event in Tokyo.

India, the World No. 5, rested some senior players and fielded a relatively young team for the Olympic Test event but still managed to lift the crown, defeating New Zealand 5-0 in the final on Wednesday. “It was a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved in the team to showcase what they can do. With some experienced players rested for the tournament, we had a fairly younger squad, but it was a great chance for the youngsters to do well and I am really pleased with the way everyone stepped up. The team performed well against teams like Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand, and it was an immensely proud moment for me to have led the Indian men’s hockey team for the very first time,” said Harmanpreet, who captained India in the absence of Manpreet Singh.

Important goals at crucial junctures

India had a great start to the Olympic Test Event, registering a 6-0 win against Malaysia in its opening match before losing to New Zealand 1-2 in its second match. But the Indians came back strongly in their last round-robin match to defeat host Japan 6-3 and secure a place in the final.

Harmanpreet scored two goals in the tournament and both his strikes came against New Zealand — the first in the 1-2 loss in round-robin match, the other in the final. “Scoring is something that I have really worked on since the junior days. To be able to help the team in scoring some important goals at crucial junctures in a match is something that motivates me even further,” Harmanpreet said.

‘Really pleased’

“I have worked on my drag-flicking with the coaches, and finally it is showing on the field as well and I am really pleased, but I will continue to keep working.”

Harmanpreet made his debut for the senior team in May, 2015, against Japan during a Test Series in Bhubaneswar and went on to become one of the youngest players in the Indian side that played at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Since then, the 23-year-old has taken part in most major tournaments for India, including two FIH Champions Trophy held in 2016 and in 2018, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018, and the World Cup last year.

“It was a great experience for me to have played at the last Olympics, but we came up short. However, the team is now quite focused on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and once we manage to do that, the hard work will continue to happen as we want to achieve something huge with this current team,” Harmanpreet signed off.