Injuries are part and parcel of a sportsman’s life. But at times, injuries in the middle of a tournament can get a tad frustrating, but not for Ranchi Rhinos and Indian striker Mandeep Singh.
The 18-year-old youngster has taken the setback (waist injury) in his stride. “It’s frustrating to sit out, but injuries are not in my control. I injured myself during our game against Delhi Waveriders. I started experiencing pain during my practice sessions and consulted the doctor who advised me three weeks rest,” he says in an exclusive interview.
Mandeep, who grabbed the eyeballs in the inaugural Hero Hockey India League, where he emerged as the second top goal-scorer (scored 10 goals) behind Sandeep Singh, is deeply disappointed not to be turning out for Ranchi Rhinos at the business end of the tournament but is upbeat about their chances of defending the crown. “It’s disappointing not to be in the thick of action. No doubt, injuries to several players affected us, but I think we have coped well and showed that we have the team to corner glory,” he exudes optimism.
The fleeted-footed Jalandhar lad is hopeful of returning to competitive action next month. “I should fully recover in three weeks’ time. Our World Cup camp is likely to start from March 9 and if I get a camp call-up, I will be available,” he says.
A product of Jalandhar-based Surjit Hockey Academy, Mandeep has been riding a wave of success in the last twelve months. He made his senior international debut in the FIH Hockey World League Round 2 event in New Delhi, where he even scored on his debut against lowly Fiji. He was the top goal-scorer of the senior team in as many as three tournaments (Hockey World League Semifinals, Asia Cup and Hockey World League Finals). “If I look at my performance in the last one year or so, I should be happy. Of course, there is plenty of room for improvement and I’m looking to raise the improvement bar all the time,” he says with a tinge of confidence.
The talented forward is known for his burst of speed and goal-poaching skills. Off late, he has developed a new craft – engineering penalty corners for his side. “Getting penalty corners is the job of a forward and I’m trying new ways to earn them for my side. Trying to play the ball on the foot of an opposition player is one of my tactics,” he says coyly.
Son of a real estate dealer, Mandeep has played under three foreign coaches – Gregg Clark (for Ranchi Rhinos) Michael Nobbs and Terry Walsh. So, how has been the experience? “I enjoyed playing under all three of them. They have really helped me in developing my game. My current coach Terry Walsh is doing a good job with the senior team,” he says.
He fondly remembers his sizzling maiden senior international hat-trick against Olympic champions Germany during the Hockey World League final round in New Delhi last month. “Scoring a hat-trick against a top side like Germany is really special. More importantly, my effort helped India beat the Olympic champions in our own backyard. The win gave us a lot of self-belief and we can now back ourselves to beat top teams regularly,” he signs off.