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How pep talk from senior captain Manpreet Singh helped Indian juniors bounceback after loss to France

A pep talk from Olympic bronze medal-winning captain Manpreet Singh helped India to turn the tables after a disappointing outing against France in Men's Junior Hockey World Cup.

Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh (Source: Hockey India)

Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh (Source: Hockey India)



Updated: 2021-11-27T17:46:59+05:30

A pep talk from Olympic bronze medal-winning captain Manpreet Singh and star drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh helped defending champions India to turn the tables after a disappointing outing against France in their opening match of the FIH Men's Junior Hockey World Cup here.

Tournament favourites India were stunned by underdogs France 4-5 in their opening match of the premier junior tournament before the title holders bounced back in style to thrash Canada 13-1. India will play Poland in their must-win last Pool B match here on Saturday to qualify for the quarterfinals.

"I just told them to believe in themselves and play as a team. They have a lot of fighting spirit. I just said to focus on their own game. We have been speaking continuously with them," Manpreet said during a virtual media interaction on Saturday.

"I spoke to (skipper) Vivek (Sagar Prasad) after the first match and told him to lead from the front in the ground. I advised him to improve communication between the players which was lacking against France. Important is to enjoy win or loss as a team."

Manpreet's deputy Harmanpreet also passed on his experience to the drag flickers and India's backline after the France match. "I have been talking to them about positioning and basics. The positioning of a freeman is very important and I discussed that with the junior players in detail," he said.

Haramanpreet said he also had an elaborate discussion with vice-captain of the junior team and drag-flicker Sanjay Kumar, who scored two consecutive hat-tricks in the tournament so far.

"He (Sanjay) is doing very well. I just told him to stay focused on the chances he gets. He plays as a freeman so I advised him about his positioning," he said.

Manpreet will lead a 20-member Indian senior team in next month's Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka, where Harmanpreet will be his deputy. India will go into the tournament, to be held from December 14 to 22, as defending champions as they shared the title in the last edition of the event with Pakistan after the final was called off due to incessant rain. The tournament will also mark a restart for India after their successful Tokyo Olympics campaign.

"We are in pretty good shape for Asian Champions Trophy. We are focusing on our fitness. After the Olympics, there was a drop in our fitness levels. So, now we are looking to regain that. Everyone is giving their 100 percent," Manpreet said.

With several players who were part of the Olympic squad being rested for the continental event, including stalwart goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, Manpreet said this is a good opportunity for young players to prove their mettle ahead of a busy season ahead.

"Some of these youngsters have been patiently waiting for their chances and have been working really had to find a place in the team. I feel this is a great tournament to test these players and it's also a great opportunity for youngsters who have been given a chance to show their abilities," he said. "It is our first big tournament after the Tokyo Olympics. The new cycle has started for us. Doing well in Dhaka is important for us. If we start well, then our confidence levels will go high. There are major tournaments lined up in 2022."

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