Defender Gurinder Singh feels the Indian men’s hockey team is moving in the right direction and is slowly attaining the levels they want to achieve in their preparation for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Since returning to the national coaching camp in August after a six-week break, the core group has been working towards achieving their previous form and match-fitness.
“We have slowly been gaining the levels we want to achieve after a long layoff during the lockdown months. I feel increasing the intensity of the sessions in the month of October and continuing the momentum in November has helped put us back on track especially in terms of fitness and speed,” said Gurinder.
Gurinder, however, did admit that training in a bubble has made the players learn new ways to de-load and hit the refresh button before the start of every week’s grind.
“In normal times, we would go to the city, explore new places to dine and unwind. These outings would serve as ideal way to hit the refresh button before the start of another hectic week.”
“Now, as we live in a bubble, we have had to find new ways to relax, unwind and recharge. While some of us listen to music, watch movies or read books, some of us have been exploring the various facilities in SAI, trying different sport, perhaps playing a form of volleyball, football or even cricket, keeping all SOP guidelines in mind. The coaches and support staff play golf sometimes on weekends and some of us have wanted to try our hand at golf too,” added Gurinder, who was part of the India colts team that lifted the Junior Men’s World Cup in 2016.
Over the years, the defender has shown promise and maturity in his game and he vies to keep at it.
“This is an important year for all of us and I am committed to executing my role as expected by the team and the chief coach. I am happy to have received opportunities in important tournaments that have helped me develop as a player. I am hopeful in the lead up to the Olympics next year, I will be able to prove my mettle to secure a place in the Indian team for Tokyo. That is the ultimate dream for any player,” Gurinder said.
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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