Manpreet overcomes personal trauma for team’s cause

When Manpreet Singh steps onto the turf against Canada at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Sunday, the 23-year old would join a select group of Indian sportsmen who have lifted themselves above personal tragedy to exemplify their mental fortitude and excel on field.

Manpreet Singh joined his team 48 hours after being informed of his father's death.   -  Getty Images

It’s when the going gets tough that the tough get going - clichéd but true. And when Manpreet Singh steps onto the turf against Canada at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Sunday, the 23-year old would join a select group of Indian sportsmen who have lifted themselves above personal tragedy to exemplify their mental fortitude and excel on field.

Rejoining the Indian team just 48 hours after being informed of his father’s demise, the talented midfielder has committed himself to the team’s cause at the competition. “My teammates are like my brothers, and at this time, I want to go there and be with them and support them as they have supported me,” Manpreet said in a statement.

One person who would know exactly what he would be going through would be Tushar Khandker, currently with the team as coach himself. Khandker lost his father, who initiated him into hockey, while playing the Junior World Cup in 2005 in Rotterdam. He returned home, only to go back after completing the cremation rituals and help his team reach the semifinals of the competition.

Empathy helps

“I can feel and understand exactly what he might be going through because I have felt exactly the same myself. When the news first came, I was with him in his room for a long time that day and even though no one can do anything, empathy does help,” Khandker told Sportstar from Ipoh.

Manpreet was informed about the tragedy hours before India’s first game against Japan and was on the flight back home when both teams faced off with black armbands. It also helped that Manpreet’s fiancé Illi Najwa Saddique, a Malaysian, and her mother, were present with him in Ipoh. “Having a family member always helps,” Khandker admitted.

There have been other such instances. In 2009 Birendra Lakra, one of the best defenders in the world today and named Indian Player of the Year last year, lost his father while on tour to Australia. At 19 years Lakra, the youngest of five siblings, was not even informed about it but was shocked when told about it on his return to Delhi. “One, no one wanted to disturb me. Two, there is hardly any electricity back home in my village, no phone or TV, to communicate,” he said then with a shrug.

Tendulkar and Kohli in company

Sachin Tendulkar’s enduring image from the 1999 World Cup, tearfully glancing up at the heavens after a century against Kenya, remains iconic for humanising someone christened god of cricket. The then 26-year old Tendulkar had lost his father a few days back but returned for the game, only to score an unbeaten 140 to help India register its first win in the tournament.

And current Test captain Virat Kohli, often labelled brash, young and aggressive, proved his mental courage when he stepped on to the field in a Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka despite his father passing away the same morning and scored a chanceless 90 back in 2006 to help Delhi draw the game. He was just 18 then.

Truly, champions are forged by the trials they go through.