The Indian hockey team has been stranded at the SAI Centre even before the first nation-wide lockdown was announced and with the Tokyo Olympics along with rest of the action either postponed, called off or delayed, the situation is slightly different than usual for the team, reckons its skipper Manpreet Singh. Also Read - Need to Work on Converting Chances Into Goals Ahead of Olympics: Lalit Upadhyay
“This situation is completely different. It is affecting everyone mentally,” Manpreet told Times of India. “It is a bit challenging because you don’t usually face such situations even when you are not in the team. Even when a player is dropped, he still has an option to play the sport for academies or state teams.” Also Read - COVID Effect: FIH Postpones Pro League Matches
The Indian hockey team was riding on the high of their performance at the FIH Hockey Pro League, where they beat higher-ranked opponents Belgium and Australia. But now that there’s nothing to look forward to for who knows how long, the challenge is to stay positive. As for Manpreet, the skipper claims staying indoors for a player is worse than being injured or out of the national team. Also Read - Hockey | COVID-19 Experience Made me Mentally Stronger, Says India Men's Captain Manpreet Singh
“We are treating this lockdown as a long break. We are staying in touch with the sport by analysing footage of both us and our opponents. It helps that we are in regular contact with our sport – if not physically, then mentally,” Manpreet, who was the first Indian to win FIH Player of the Year Award, said.
“I have been fortunate enough in my career to not have been on the sidelines for more than a month. It is a different experience for all of us because this is a forced situation – it is not like we are not physically fit to play but the need of the hour is to not go outside and play.”
Manpreet’s teammate SV Sunil, who lives approximately seven kms away from the SAI Centre, recently missed the first birthday of his daughter due to the restrictions of movements during the lockdown. While most of the people in the country are with their families in this crisis, the same cannot be said for India’s hockey players.
“I miss home. It would have been great to stay with my family during these testing times. My mother and brothers are in Jalandhar. But I’m always in touch with them. It is challenging. But there are more important things in life and we should feel grateful for what we have rather than what we do not,” said Manpreet.
The second season of the FIH Pro League has been extended till June 2021, but with no immediate solution in sight, the teams, like the rest of the world has no option than play the waiting game. Inside the court, Manpreet may be well revised with what he needs to say to his players to bring out the best in him, but outside, the task of keeping the spirits high remains a stiffer challenge.
“Hockey has been such a huge part of our lives that it is difficult for every player to not play his favourite game. But everyone understands what the world is going through. As a captain, I make sure they talk to their families regularly and ensure all of them are in a positive mindset. I try to ensure that our mental health is taken care of, and that we are only focusing on the good things while here. It is important that we express ourselves and get through this as a team instead of going into a shell,” the skipper explained.
“I have told my teammates that we all should be grateful for what we have, unlike many others in the world who are struggling. Once we are through this situation, we can think about playing the sport again and performing to the best of our abilities.”