'Staying fit and studying opponents': India hockey captain Manpreet Singh on challenges and opportunities during coronavirus-forced break
Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh speaks on challenges during long break from hockey and postponement of Olympics
Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh is regularly cycling 40 kilometres in the morning besides running and giving more time in the gym in the evening at his home village Mithapur in Jalandhar.
Ever since the players returned home from their camp at SAI, Bengaluru, after spending almost three and a half months at the complex due to the coronavirus-forced lockdown, the focus has been on maintaining fitness levels. Manpreet told Firstpost that dropping of fitness levels is the biggest concern for the team. Trainer and coaches have been in constant contact with every member to make sure, even at home, they are working hard.
"If you are not playing for a long time, the fitness levels will drop. That is why all of us players are trying to stay fit. We have been given a fitness programme and told to follow it religiously so that when we come back, our fitness levels have not dropped drastically as hockey is largely dependent on fitness," Manpreet said.
Besides fitness, coach Graham Reid has asked the players to be engrossed in analysing and reading opponents by watching videos of earlier matches.
"We have also been asked to keep watching matches of opposition teams to read and analyse their play. This is done to make sure we are engrossed in hockey," Manpreet said.
With FIH Pro League and Tokyo Olympics rescheduled, the Indian men's team is not busy till November when the Asian Champions Trophy is scheduled to take place in Bangladesh. However, it is expected to be postponed with Bangladesh among the countries which are most affected by COVID-19. The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) had said that the decision will be taken in August.
Manpreet did express his disappointment over postponment of Olympics as the team was in good form but also said that it is important to not overthink.
"The postponement has affected other teams and us equally. As an athlete, I would have liked the Olympics to happen this year. There is a disappointment that we could have done better this year but I want to look at positives from the postponement. As a team, we have one year's time now to work on weaknesses. I am seeing it like that. We cannot change that (postponement). It is not in our hands," said the 27-year-old, who has joined hands with Adidas' 'One More' Olympics campaign.
Manpreet also hailed Reid's contribution in helping the team play attacking hockey and focus till the last second of the game. Reid, who joined the team after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2019, where India faltered against South Korea in the final, has worked hard on the defence, while making sure more scoring opportunities are created. Success in FIH Series Finals, Olympic qualifiers, test events and impressive show in the FIH Pro League earlier this year has made former India greats like Dhanraj Pillay believe that the team has a great chance for podium finish at Tokyo next year.
Speaking on what has changed since Reid's arrival, Manpreet said, "We have worked hard on creating chances in opponent's circle. We were not able to do it earlier. Graham keeps on telling us that once you enter the circle, create results, bring something. Also, he tells us if we can attack well, we will win matches; if our defence is tight, we can win tournaments. We have this motto that as we enter the D, we need a result. We are slowly doing that as well. We scored goals against Netherlands (during Pro League) in first thirty seconds. The mindset has changed a lot."
Manpreet also mentioned the fitness levels have helped the team play better as a unit.
"Against Australia, we were down 1-3 and in the last quarter, we hit two goals and then won in the shootout. Fitness levels have been raised. Some of our players run 20 plus in Yo-Yo Test. We know if we dont have the fitness levels, we cannot play at our best till the last second."
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