Defender Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, who has played over 200 matches for the Indian men’s hockey team, believes that the side is shaping up well for the Tokyo Olympics since resuming sports activities in August amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kothajit said that the Indian team returned to the pitch at the right time and are moving forward with each sports activities session.
“It’s been great to be back on the pitch. We have seen a lot of improvement over the last two months and we are shaping up well for the Olympics. We have returned to the pitch at the right time and therefore we have enough months to get back to our full form and get even better as a side thereafter. We are really thankful to Hockey India and SAI for putting all the safety measures in place in quick time so that we can focus on the Olympics,” said Kothajit.
The defender, who returned to the national side in the Pro League 2020 after missing out on the Olympic Qualifiers, said he knows the aspects he needs to work on to cement a consistent spot in the Indian team.
“Being out of the side is never easy and therefore I am determined to work as hard as possible to cement my spot in the Indian team. I analysed my game thoroughly during the lockdown and I know the aspects of my game that I need to work on. The next few months are very crucial for all of us and with the Olympics being postponed, we have a great opportunity to strengthen our individual and team game even more,” said the 28-year-old.
Kothajit added that he feels very fortunate to be playing alongside players such as Harmanpreet Singh.
“I feel very lucky to be playing hockey in the current era. We have a great balance of youth and experienced players in the team, especially in the defence line. I am extremely fortunate to be playing alongside some brilliant players such as Harmanpreet,” he said.
“All of us try to inspire each other to get better and I think that’s a great environment to be in. Hopefully, we will make India proud at the Olympics next year,” added the defender.
Have been focussing more on my goal-scoring ability, says Shilanand Lakra
Shilanand Lakra, a young forward in the Indian men’s hockey team, is determined to make the most of the ongoing period where he has having found the opportunity to focus on personal development since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“Obviously having made my debut for the senior team in 2018 at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, I would have expected myself to play more than two tournaments in these two years, but that is how competitive the sport in our country has become. We’ve got some amazing players in the core probables’ group, and my aim has always been to earn a place in the team through more consistent performances in domestic tournaments and in our national camps,” said Lakra who is part of the ongoing national camp at the Sport Authority of India (SAI) facility here.
“The opportunity that the pandemic has provided me with is that I’ve had enough time to re-think and analyse what I’ve been doing these past two years, and what else I can do to progress in my career. I’ve also managed to speak to the coaching staff, and especially chief coach Graham Reid, who has helped me identify areas where I need to improve upon,” he added.
The leading scorer at the Sultan of Johor Cup in 2019, where he bagged five goals in six appearances, and helped the team win the silver medal, Shilanand believes goal-scoring is also something that he has focused on.
“I think in my 12 international caps, I haven’t been able to score, and as a forward, goal-scoring is something you should constantly be working on, so that is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve got some amazing and experienced players around me in the camp here, and I’m trying to take in as much information as I can, and also train myself to get better in all areas including goal-scoring,” he said.
The 21-year-old idolises two of the best players his state has produced in Dilip Tirkey and current fellow core probable Birendra Lakra, and wants to emulate their longevity.
“I think both of them have been exceptional in their respective journeys, and I get so much inspiration when I speak to them, and read about how the struggles they had to endure in order to get to the biggest stage,” said Shilanand.
“It is a marvellous achievement for both to have played so many years at the top level, and that longevity is something I would like to have in my career as well, and give back to my nation and my state in some way,” he added.
Bengal T20 Challenge: Mohammad Kaif steals win for Town against Kalighat
An all-round show from Md. Kaif saw Town Club snatch a thrilling three-wicket win against Kalighat Club in the second match of the inaugural Bengal T20 Challenge.
After opting to bat, Kalighat suffered from some initial hiccups but they were able to post a competitive total of 148/7 on Tuesday evening in the match played at the Eden Gardens. However, Town found a way to beat their opponents, finishing at 152/7 with two balls to spare.
During their chase, Town had all but lost the match after losing seven wickets for 66 runs. However, that is when Azaz Ansari and Kaif came together and saw their team cross the line. Kaif remained unbeaten on 58 off just 24 balls, an innings studded with 6 fours and 4 sixes while Ansari supported him well with unbeaten 20 off 16 deliveries.
During Kalighat’s innings, Kaif had bowled with discipline and gave away 25 runs in his allotted 4 overs and taking a wicket. For Kalighat, captain Subham Chatterjee was the star batsman as he contributed with 63 off just 47 balls.
“I am very happy to win this match for my team. I believed in my ability and with every shot I became more confident. It felt very good to play cricket after long time,” Kaif said after the match.
Earlier, the trophy was unveiled at the Club House by West Bengal Sports Minister Aroop Biswas at a restrained ceremony marked by Covid-19 protocols.
KL Rahul ready to step into Dhoni’s shoes, guide spinners
For years, MS Dhoni donned three roles — of a player, captain and a finisher with the bat. Additionally, he was a guide to the spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav over the last few years, even chiding them for straying away from the line and plan.
Now, KL Rahul is most likely to step into his shoes in the ODI series that begins on Friday at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Rahul played as a wicketkeeper-batsman in India’s last ODI series in New Zealand and excelled with the bat scoring big in two of the those three ODIs.
“Nobody can fill the place of MS Dhoni. He has obviously shown us the way or the wicketkeeper-batsman’s role — how it should be done and obviously we have learnt a lot from MS Dhoni,” said Rahul in a media interaction while replying to a question from IANS on how he hopes to fill Dhoni’s shoes with regard to dealing with spinners.
“Me with Yuzi (Yuzvendra Chahal), Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) and Kuldeep (Yadav) and other spinners in the team we have a decent friendship and understanding in the middle. Yeah I think, I will probably go and give them feedback as to what can be a better pace or length to bowl at or if something is going wrong or you can change the field setting,” he said.
In his last ODI series for India, in New Zealand in February this year, Rahul played all the three games as a wicketkeeper-batsman. He took a catch and effected a stumping in those games.
“I think anybody doing that role of a wicketkeeper will have that responsibility (to tell bowlers including spinners to do) and like I said I have done this in one series in New Zealand. I enjoyed that and I can get with reading the games and give the bowlers the captain, some good feedback from behind the stumps,” he added.
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