Monday, May 12, 2014

Interview: Opportunity to give something back to the game, says Indian striker and junior men's team coach Tushar Khandker

Tushar Khandker has scaled many highs for the senior national team and now in his new avatar as coach of the Indian junior men’s hockey team, he is keyed up to offer whatever he can to help the youngsters fit the ‘competitive’ bill ahead of the 2016 Junior Men’s World Cup, which is slated to held in India. “It’ a great opportunity for me to give something back to the game as a coach of the junior team. I will be focusing on telling the boys what international hockey is all about and what are the things they need to work on in order to keep pace with the modern hockey trends,” Tushar says in an exclusive interview with Hockey Passion.

The national junior boys are being put through the paces at the ongoing camp at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in New Delhi. Tushar is part of the coaching staff which also comprises Harendra Singh that will oversee the boys at the camp, which will run till June 6.

It may be recalled that India had hosted the 2013 Junior Men’s World Cup, where the colts dished out a disappointing tenth-place finish. Tushar feels that the end outcome did not quite reflect the performance of the boys. “I thought India put up a decent showing in the 2014 Junior Men’s World Cup, but it was little unfortunate that the performance of the boys did not quite reflect in the overall results. I’m sure the talent pool at the junior level has a lot of depth and if we stick to a proper training schedule there is no reason why the boys can’t do well in the 2016 Junior Men’s World Cup,’ he opines.

The 29-year-old Indian striker, who actively features in all domestic tournaments for his employers BPCL and also in the Hero Hockey India League for Sahara Pariwar-owned Uttar Pradesh Wizards, believes the current bunch have it in them to script a podium finish. “Obviously teams like Australia, Netherlands and Germany are going to be hard to beat, but in front of our home crowd India can definitely stole a march over these teams.”

Wearing the coaching hat may come naturally to Tushar, who has made 235 international appearances and scored close to 70 goals, but how does he assess his comeback chances to the senior team (he along with Bharat Chetri and Ignace Tirkey have been consistently overlooked after the disastrous 2012 London Olympics campaign)? “Getting picked in the national team is not in my hands. I’m fully fit and I regularly play in domestic events as well as the HIL. It’s something you have to ask to the selectors. If they (selectors) feel I’m good enough to be picked for the country, I will be back, if they think I’m over the hill there is little that I can do about it. Just keeping fingers crossed,” he makes his point clear.

Probe him further whether he will have any regrets if he is not picked anymore in the senior team, Tushar puts up a positive face. “I believe in staying positive which will stand me in good stead for the future. It’s so easy to let negativity creep into your system, which I’m not willing to,” he observes.

There is a general feeling that Tushar hasn’t got enough playing time in both the editions of the HIL to make a statement to the selectors. The nippy forward isn’t complaining much. “Look, the format of the HIL is different from normal 70 minutes of hockey. Four quarters required very high level of fitness and no player can sustain at that level for whole 35 minutes of a half, so it is quite obvious that players have to be rotated around so that they remain fresh. Same in my case, I was utlised by my team management as per the needs of the team, which is fine with me,” he remarks.

Bringing the confabulation to an end, Tushar gives his take on India’s chances at the 2014 World Cup to be held in The Hague, Netherlands beginning May 31. “I have a feeling that India will have a great World Cup. When I say ‘great’ I’m not suggesting anything but a good outing for our boys. Our team is well balanced – we have the likes of Sreejesh, Sardar, Rupinder, Birendra, Manrpeet, Akashdeep who have garnered a fair bit of international experience – I’m confident about our boys doing us proud in Hague,” he signs off.

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