The ones for the future

Malak Singh… the joint top-scorer along with Australian Jamie Dwyer with four goals for Punjab Warriors.-PTI

Youngsters rubbing shoulders with the stars was one of the high points of the inaugural Hockey India League. Uthra Ganesan takes a look at some of the young guns who excelled in the competition.

The enduring image from the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) will undoubtedly be that of two heavyset Europeans carrying a scrawny youngster around the ground on their shoulders. The fact that the two Europeans were Dutchman Floris Evers, twice silver medallist at the Olympics, and Moritz Fuerste, twice Olympic champion, should lend enough evidence of the special talent the kid must be to deserve such an honour.

Having finished as the second highest goal-scorer of the tournament, Mandeep Singh, aged 17, has been universally hailed as one for the future. However, he is not the only one to impress, for there have been others who have left their mark on the competition.

Mandeep Singh: The boy from Jalandhar had already been making waves with the junior India team, but he came of age at the HIL. A product of the Surjit Hockey Academy, he made his junior international debut in the Sultan of Johor Cup, Malaysia, in 2011, as the youngest member of the squad. His two goals in two minutes against Germany in the 2012 edition of the same tournament made him a junior star.

Manpreet Singh... the 20-year-old Olympian underpinned his brilliance with a sterling performance in the HIL.-MANOB CHOWDHURY

At the HIL, he was on target 10 times, of which nine were field goals. This made him a constant threat upfront. His burst of speed, control, positioning and ability to anticipate stood out, earning him a senior India debut at the World Hockey League Round 2 and the Azlan Shah Cup.

Malak Singh: Haryana’s Malak Singh, aged 19, may have been overshadowed by the exploits of Mandeep at the HIL, but his performance has been impressive enough to get him a senior team call-up. His HIL team, Punjab Warriors, was not too prominent on the scoring charts, but Malak was the joint top-scorer for his side with four goals against his name, the same as Jamie Dwyer and S. V. Sunil. The Sirsa youngster is a calm and composed player. His passing skills have been praised by the coaches in the HIL, including legends such as Roelant Oltmans and Barry Dancer. A right-winger, his precision inside the striking circle is impressive too.

Manpreet Singh: He is the ‘senior’ among the juniors who sparkled in the HIL. Already an Olympian, the 20-year-old only reinforced his brilliance with his performance in the League. He was one of the key men in the Ranchi Rhinos midfield. Hardworking and intelligent, Manpreet’s skills with the stick are second to none. His ability to find the gaps is awe-inspiring. A product of the Surjit Hockey Academy, he made his junior international debut under coach A. K. Bansal in the Junior Asia Championship in Myanmar. Manpreet is employed with the Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai.

Rupinder Pal Singh displayed his impressive defensive skills.-RAJEEV BHATT

Rupinder Pal Singh: There was not much to choose between this defender from Delhi Waveriders and his counterpart from Ranchi Rhinos, Amit Rohidas, barring the fact that Rupinder is slightly more experienced. The 22-year-old drag-flicker, who has already played for India at the senior level, was considered a special talent yet to realise his full potential. In the HIL, Rupinder finally managed to break the shackles. Though he needs to improve his drag-flicks, his defensive skills were quite impressive in the 14 games that he played at the HIL. A lot of credit for Delhi not conceding too many goals should go to Rupinder’s defending.

Amit Rohidas: He could not have been anything but a defender. Hailing from Saunamara village in Orissa’s Sundergarh district, the 19-year-old player’s idol was Dilip Tirkey, also from the same village. As such, he did not need any special motivation to pick up the hockey stick. A product of the Pamposh Sports Hostel, his special talent first came to light when he made his junior India debut in the under-18 Asia Cup in 2009. Rohidas is everything a defender ought to be — strong, firm and technically clean in tackling.