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The Hindu: Juniors presence will make contests for slots intense (3/22/2017)
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The Hindu: 'Juniors’ presence will make contests for slots intense’

By Nandakumar Marar

Drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh has said that India’s victory at the 2016 Junior World Cup hockey has resulted in the senior Internationals revising targets for the year ahead.

“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.”

India seniors 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 at the Malaysia competition. The inclusion of outstanding Junior World Cuppers from now on would keep the seniors on their toes, he said. “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.”

The defender, an imposing figure on the turf, is also confident about the effect on 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,” said Rupinderpal, identifying Junior World Cuppers Harjeet Singh, Hamanpreet Singh and Vikas Dahiya when asked to name junior internationals whose playing ability he thought were on par.

Harjeet is a midfielder and was captain at Lucknow when India was crowned Junior World Cup champion. Harmanpreet is a defender and a penalty corners specialist. Dahiya plays in goal. These three were among senior National 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” He was speaking on the sidelines of TOISA awards.

Replying to a specific query about penalty corner conversion rate by the drag-flickers, Rupinderpal said: “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.”

Coach given credit

He gave credit to the Dutch chief coach for keeping players in a positive frame of mind even in defeats. “Coach knows each player, his strengths and weaknesses.” The latter was in charge at the Asian Champions Trophy and also at Rio Olympics.

The senior team drag-flicker 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 his home State Punjab, was 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 are teammates at Delhi Wavewiders, the former is captain. The junior international is viewed as a future leader.

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