India eager to retain hockey gold at Asian Games: Rupinder

Rupinder Pal Singh
Ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh will have a big role to play in India's title defence. File photo: AFP

New Delhi: Boosted by a strong comeback in the three-match series against New Zealand last week, ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh says the Indian hockey team is eager to carry forward the momentum into the upcoming Asian Games and win the gold medal.

"Personally for me, playing against a quality team like New Zealand who won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games was very important. Since I had missed out on all the action during the Champions Trophy, I have to find my rhythm ahead of the Asian Games in Jakarta," Rupinder said.

The Commonwealth Games in April was Rupinder's last appearance for the Indian team at a major International event. A hamstring injury during the quadrennial event meant he had to be rested for the Champions Trophy where the team finished runners-up.

While India were up against top teams in the world, Rupinder had to remain in the national camp and work on his fitness.

"It is frustrating for any player to be watching the team play on TV, but it was critical for me to undergo rehab in order to be match-fit and available for the Asian Games selection," Rupinder expressed after the 3-0 series win against New Zealand.

In order to gain momentum again, Rupinder appeared in four practice matches against Bangladesh early this month where he scored 10 goals through penalty corners and played two practice matches against South Korea where he scored one goal.

"I think having Bangladesh, South Korea and New Zealand visit us ahead of major tournaments was a blessing in disguise. The team tried out different combinations and tested different variations in converting PC (penalty corner). We also tried new methods of creating PCs where I think the team did well. Our main criteria was to improve goal scoring," said the 27-year-old from Punjab.

After a successful series against New Zealand, the Indian team has returned home for a week-long break and the national camp will resume on August 1.

At the Asian Games, India are grouped in Pool A with South Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Rupinder said the team will further work on the specific areas to ensure they have left no stone unturned in their preparations for the Asian Games to be held in Jakarta and Palembang.

"The one-week break will help us rejuvenate as some of us have been in the national camp continuously since April 28. When we return to camp, the team will sit together, watch videos from our matches against New Zealand and try and find out ways to improve further. We are eager to defend the gold medal in Jakarta," he added.

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