Indian hockey is going through quite a spectacular phase at the moment. Both the men's and the women's team secured respective victories in the Asia Cup 2017 hockey tournaments and look as strong as ever.
For the Indian men's hockey team, it has been a topsy-turvy year. Roelant Oltmans was sacked earlier this 2017 for a string of unsatisfactory results, while the introduction of Waltherus Sjoerd Marijne as the new coach brought instant luck.
Marijine entrusted the 25-year-old Manpreet Singh with the captaincy duties for the Asia Cup tournament, despite the presence of veterans Sardar Singh and PR Sreejesh, who led the team in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The halfback from Jalandhar, who has been a part of the national team since 2011, was always regarded to be the next big star. Appointing him as the skipper did take the extra pressure off Sardar or Sreejesh and the junior stars like Harmanpreet Singh, too, found that comfort level in Manpreet!
The International Business Times, India, is privileged to have caught up with Manpreet for an interaction. He talks about his hockey journey, the future roadmap and why Akshay Kumar is perfect to play his character in his biopic! Excerpts:
IBTimes India: Manpreet, first of all, how does it feel leading India to winning the Asian championship earlier this year.
Manpreet: It feels great because it was a good tournament and it was a great honour to be leading the national team. India won the Asia Cup after a decade and we are so happy.
IBTimes India: 2018 is a big year for the team with the Asian games, Commonwealth games and the Hockey World Cup coming up. How's everything shaping up in the camp at the moment and how are you all approaching the big assignments next year?
Manpreet: Right now we are in good shape, but we need to focus on the next tournament in December that is the Hockey World League Finals. After that we will be concentrating on the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
The World League Finals is important for us because all the top teams are coming to Bhubaneshwar.
IBTimes India: There is no doubt that India is next to invincible in Asia. But have you been able to find the formula to tackle teams like Argentina, Australia, Germany.
Manpreet: Before the Asia Cup, we had gone for an Europe tour where we played twice against Belgium and twice against Holland. We beat them both times. I think now we are getting better.
We beat Australia also couple of times. We also won against Argentina during the Olympics and we defeated Germany also before that. In the upcoming tournaments also, we have a good chance of beating them.
IBTimes India: You've played under Roelant Oltmans. How has the philosophy and tactics changed under new coach Marjine.
Manpreet: Roelant and Marjine are both from the same country and have the same line of thought. Marjine always tells us that 'the player drives and the coach assists'.
He wants the player to take the responsibility on the ground. Whenever they want to change something they should go ahead and do it. So that's a plus when it comes to Marjine and that's how we played during Asia Cup as well.
IBTimes India: You're just 25 and already referred by some as the Virat Kohli of Indian hockey. How does it feel and what personal milestones are you looking ahead to achieve.
Manpreet: Even though I am 25, I'm getting to play with experienced players Sardar Singh, SV Sunil, PR Sreejesh who are all great players with so much experience. They are always willing to share that with me.
I can always feel free to ask them and they are always willing to help me out. That's what keeps me going and motivates me on the field. I want to give my best for my team.
IBTimes India: You've struggled a lot to make it to this stage. Gone through life's ups and downs. If your life someday is portrayed in a movie, who would you like to see play the role and why.
Manpreet: Akshay Kumar; because he is the fittest actor and one of my favourites as well. He is also now making a movie on hockey [Gold].
IBTimes India: You have said that you look up to Sardar Singh. How influential has it been playing alongside him? What do you two talk of in the dressing room?
Manpreet: I've been playing with Sardar Singh for almost 7 years now. He's a great player and I've learnt a lot of things from him. He was the captain before me and has led the team very well.
Whenever I feel I need to improve on something he is always there to guide me and motivate me on the ground. In the dressing room also it's the same. He sits me down and tells me if I am doing something wrong and how I can do better. He always talks positive.
IBTimes India: You're one of those highly rated junior team stars who has made it so big. Judging by the passion for Hockey in India and youngsters also doing well currently, what levels do you see Indian hockey reach by 2020, when the next Olympics will be held.
Manpreet: We have really good junior players right now like Harmanpreet whose strength lies in penalty corners. Gurjant Singh is another good player doing very well as a forward. Even Varun Kumar is playing well.
And by 2020 Olympics they will be more confident and experienced which will help Indian hockey to reach higher.
IBTimes India: Finally, say a few things about your association with Red Bull and how it will help for performing in the further development of Indian hockey's future.
Manpreet: Most of the players drink Red Bull before the matches. It always helps us keep going and gives us more energy before matches. So I am happy to be associated with Red Bull and come in as part of the family. I am the first Indian hockey player who has become a Red Bull athlete, so this is a very proud moment for me.