A pep talk from Olympic bronze medal-winning captain Manpreet Singh and star dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh helped defending champions India to turn the tables after a disappointing outing against France in their opening match of the FIH Men's Junior Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar.
Tournament favourites India were stunned by underdogs France 4-5 in their opening match of the premier junior tournament before the title holders bounced back in style to thrash Canada 13-1.
India will play Poland in their must-win last Pool B match here on Saturday to qualify for the quarterfinals.
“I just told them to believe in themselves and play as a team. They have a lot of fighting spirit. I just said to focus on their own game. We have been speaking continuously with them,” Manpreet said during a virtual media interaction on Saturday.
“I spoke to (skipper) Vivek (Sagar Prasad) after the first match and told him to lead from the front in the ground. I advised him to improve communication between the players which was lacking against France.”
Manpreet’s deputy Harmanpreet also passed on his experience to the dragflickers and India's backline after the France match.
“I have been talking to them about positioning and basics. The positioning of freeman is very important and I discussed that with the junior players in detail,” he said.
Haramanpreet said he also had an elaborate discussion with vice-captain of the junior team and dragflicker Sanjay Kumar, who scored two consecutive hat-tricks in the tournament so far.
“He (Sanjay) is doing very well. I just told him to stay focussed on the chances he gets. He plays as a freeman so I advised him about his positioning,” he said.
Manpreet will lead a 20-member Indian senior team in next month's Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka, where Harmanpreet will be his deputy.
India will go into the tournament, to be held from December 14 to 22, as defending champions as they shared the title in the last edition of the event with Pakistan after the final was called off due to incessant rain. The tournament will also mark a restart for India after their successful Tokyo Olympics campaign.
“We are in pretty good shape for Asian Champions Trophy. We are focusing on our fitness. After the Olympics, there was a drop in our fitness levels. So, now we are looking to regain that. Everyone is giving their 100 percent,” Manpreet said.