Rupinderpal Singh: A major title is our next target

The drag-flicker credited India’s juniors for providing an example for their seniors, with their Junior World Cup victory last year.

Rupinderpal Singh is captain at Delhi Waveriders in the Hockey India League.   -  K. Murali Kumar

India’s victory at the 2016 Junior World Cup has propelled senior internationals to revise their targets for the year ahead to a “major title”, drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh has said. The inclusion of outstanding Junior World Cup players in the national camp from now on will keep the seniors on their toes, he feels.

India won the 2014 Asian Games gold at Incheon, South Korea and the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy title at Kuantan, Malaysia. Rupinder played his part in both wins, emerging top-scorer in the Champions Trophy.

“The Junior World Cup win has brought positive energy to the game and given strength to the seniors. Hockey players are getting public recognition, thanks to the juniors’ achievement. The momentum will be maintained when the senior team wins a major tournament, like the World Cup. We now have a major title as our next target,” Rupinderpal said on the sidelines of TOISA awards.

“When the juniors soon join us at the camp, competition will get intense since they will try to make an impact. Individually, playing levels will rise due to fight for places. It can only benefit Indian hockey,” he added.

Juniors ‘close to our levels’

The defender, an imposing figure on the turf, is also confident about the effect of juniors rubbing shoulders with them. “When juniors train with us, over a period of time their confidence level has to change. As of now, they are close to our levels, a few of them are equal to us,” quipped Rupinderpal, who identified Junior World Cup players Harjeet Singh, Hamanpreet Singh and Vikas Dahiya as being on par with the seniors.

Harjeet, a midfielder, was the captain of India’s Junior World Cup winning squad. Harmanpreet is a defender and a penalty corners specialist, while Dahiya plays in goal. These three were among the national senior probables for the Rio Olympics preparations. Harmanpreet got the nod, Dahiya was named in the reserves for Rio, where Rupinder made his Olympic debut last year. “The juniors training with us are aware of senior squad requirements. So as members of Indian juniors, they make a difference there.”

Replying to a specific query about penalty-corner conversion rate by his tribe of drag-flickers, Rupinderpal explained: “Over the last three to four years, overall performances are okay. Our coach (Roelant Oltmans) has told us that 33 per cent out of 100 should be our contribution. Penalty corner defence has improved and drag-flickers need to improvise to get new angles for scoring.”

Rupinderpal credited the Dutch chief coach for keeping players in a positive frame of mind even in defeats. “Coach knows each player, his strengths and weaknesses.” Oltmans was in charge of the team for two major events - the Asian Champions Trophy and the Rio Olympics.

Rupinderpal credited the juniors for raising interest levels. “Public affection has increased ever since the Junior World Cup victory, so have the public expectations. Indian hockey greats expect us to bring more glory to India,” he said, pointing out that crowds for Hockey India League games, especially in home state Punjab, is a happy feeling.

Harjeet expressed delight at the packed stands in Lucknow for Junior World Cup final and felt HIL’s popularity was rising each year. Both Rupinderpal and Harjeet are team-mates at Delhi Wavewiders; the former is captain. The junior international is viewed as a future leader.

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