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Hockey

Tokyo 2020: Manpreet Singh - The captain who leads by example

A brief overview of Manpreet Singh's role in inspiring the current Indian team

Indian men hockey team celebrates after winning bronze at Tokyo Olympics
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Indian men hockey team celebrates after winning bronze at Tokyo Olympics (Source:  Hockey India)

By

Subhashish Majumdar

Updated: 2021-08-05T14:38:09+05:30

While it is customary for a medal-winning captain to attain cult status in a passionate hockey-playing nation like India, the man who steered the men's hockey team to a historic bronze at Tokyo Olympics, is a skipper who leads by example on and off the pitch.

In the dying moments of India's World Cup quarterfinal clash against the Netherlands, Manpreet Singh surged forward with a burst of energy as the Indians trailed the Dutch by a 1-2 margin.

The skipper almost doubled over in the process but regained his balance as the clock ticked down just about managing to pass the ball to Lalit Upadhyaya who was advancing with speed into the striking circle.

The hooter sounded just as the Indians appealed for a PC which was turned down by Adam Kearns. More out of hope than conviction, the Indians kept pleading with the umpires for a PC even as the Dutch had already begun the victory celebrations.

Manpreet's effort was in vain, but the sight of the midfielder scampering ahead like his life was at stake is one that remains etched in memory. The resolve was unmistakable and infectious.

A similar adrenaline surge was on display when the Indians faced Argentina in the first leg of the Hockey Pro League game in Buenos Aires earlier this year,

A desperate, yet inspirational solo burst from Manpreet Singh who sprinted into the opposition circle all by himself and manufactured a PC with seconds left on the clock lead to a dramatic alteration in the script of the match with the Indians trailing 1-2.

A late PC goal from Harmanpreet Singh allowed the Indians to equalize and take the match into a shootout which the Men in Blue won.

The emotion on the face of the 29-year-old from Mithapur is there for all to see as he sings the national anthem with gusto before every international match.

Manpreet was India's flag-bearer at the Games

The rare lapses have happened at crucial times - like in the final of the 2018 Champions Trophy match against Australia when Manpreet failed to put one into a near-empty goalmouth with the scorelines tied - but the sheer intensity and determination of the man who held the flag aloft during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games is quite unparalleled.

Young Vivek Sagar Prasad gushes with pride when asked who his role model is - and the name comes out in a flash - Manpreet Singh.

He is a coach's captain - equally at ease with Sjoerd Marijne, Harendra Singh, and Graham Reid, focussing solely on taking the team forward as a unit no matter what transpires on or off the pitch.

Marijne was all praise for Manpreet even after taking charge of the women's team despite the acrimony in the men's camp that preceded his departure.

Manpreet Singh's name now will now go down in the history books as the captain of the Indian men's hockey team who led the side to their first-ever Olympic medal in 41 years - and did so in style as India crossed swords with the best teams in the world.

The journey is yet incomplete but has reached a memorable milestone for the once-shy lad from Jalandhar who dreamt of playing hockey for India.

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