Living up to its reputation of being the Mecca of hockey in the country, Punjab has given 12 players to the 20-member Indian contingent scheduled to participate in a four-nation tournament in Tauranga and Hamilton, New Zealand. India will be up against Olympics runner-up Belgium, Japan and hosts New Zealand in the meet beginning on January 17.
Out of the 12, 10 are from the Jalandhar’s Surjit Hockey Academy. The 12 Punjabis making the cut are captain Manpreet Singh Pawar, Rupinder Pal Singh, Satbir Singh, Krishna Pathak, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Harjeet Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Dilpreet Singh.
“Punjab has always been the torchbearer of Indian hockey, but this time the number is unparalleled,” said Harendra Singh, coach of Indian women’s hockey team. “Most of them had played under me during my stint with the junior hockey team.
This is also the fittest units I have seen in a long time.”For Pathak, Simranjeet, and Dilpreet, this is first India call-up. Goalkeeper Pathak was a member of the 2016 junior World Cup-winning team.
Pathak and Simranjeet were part of the India A team that participated in the Australian Hockey League in September.
The 21-year-old goalkeeper, who lost his father to a heart attack two days before the junior World Cup started, says this is a dream come true for him. “I was very emotional when I heard about my selection.
I wish my parents were alive. They would have been super proud of me,” said an emotional Pathak.
Mid-fielder Simranjeet too is thrilled with his selection. “I knew that the call would come but trust me it is a different feeling altogether.”
An inclusion that generates enthusiasm is that of 18-year-old striker Dilpreet who, like Simranjeet and Pathak, is a product of Surjit academy.
He was part of the junior team that won the bronze medal in the Sultan of Johor Cup last year. In his first international tournament in the U-21 age group, Dilpreet scored nine goals in six matches to end up as the tournament’s top scorer.
“It is an amazing feeling. I was in a shock when I got the message and it took me 30 minutes to settle down. I am looking forward to donning the national colors,” said the18-year-old lad from Jalandhar. “I believe this tour will do wonders for me and I will be a better player,” he added.
There is no use finding fault with the EVMs now when the party leadership committed a historic blunder with regard to the overall strategy in the elections. First, it should look within to find out reasons that stopped AAP’s march to power,” Chandigarh-based The Tribune quoted Mann as saying.