CHENNAI: Bharatat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), filled with quite a few India players, had just come back from a goal down to thump Mumbai Hockey Association 5-1 in the 90th All-India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here.
One of the national stars, Manpreet Singh, is immediately sought after by a couple of star-struck fans for selfies. One is inclined to think he would reject their advances, knowing he had just exerted himself for 70 minutes, but the 24-year-old happily obliges. And he actually seems to enjoy it. An endearing trait from someone looked upon as a future India captain.
Despite starring for India at the Rio Olympics, where they reached the quarterfinals, Manpreet was not happy. “It was a good experience, but I’m not happy with the way we lost to Belgium (in the quarterfinals). We played well against Germany and Netherlands (lost both games 2-1), and beat eventual champions Argentina 2-1. Personally, I’m unhappy with the way I played against Belgium.
“We took the lead, but after that made a few errors that cost us. We were hopeful since the team was playing well up to the event, and I need to examine what I did wrong there as well,” he said.
During the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, in April, Manpreet’s father passed away, but he played on. And it was his mother who urged him to do so. “I was very close to my dad, and he used to watch all my games. It was quite a difficult time for me, knowing he wouldn’t be there to watch me play in Ipoh. But my mother told me I shouldn’t take a break because of that. She told me that my teammates are also like family to me, since I spend so much time with them.
“Jo ho gaya so ho gaya. Kya pata unko teri zaroorat pade (what has happened has happened. Who knows they might need you on the field). Her saying that motivated me a lot, so I played on. Even my teammates, and players from other nations, were there to support me. That was very nice, and I’m grateful for that,” noted the Jalandhar-born athlete.
Some have hailed him as the successor to Sardar Singh, but Manpreet brushes off any such comparisons. “My only thought is to give my best for my team, be it BPCL or India. Put me in any position also, but the only thing is to give my 100 per cent. I don’t think about any other things.”
Against Mumbai, he played almost as a defender. Asked if this was to conserve energy for national duty, he replied in the negative. “It was just something the coach asked of me as a strategy, and as long as I’m playing, doesn’t matter where I play,” concluded Manpreet.
Results: Army XI 2-1 Hockey Karnataka; IOC 5-4 Air India; PSB 3-3 ONGC.