CWG 2022 | Not thinking of Australia yet, focusing on group matches: Hockey captain Manpreet

Six-time Commonwealth Games hockey champions Australia are the hot favourites in Birmingham and the Indians will have to beat them at some stage if they are to clinch gold

Six-time Commonwealth Games hockey champions Australia are the hot favourites in Birmingham and the Indians will have to beat them at some stage if they are to clinch gold

A maiden gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is the ultimate goal but Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh said the players will take one game at a time and their immediate focus will be on the group stage matches.

Six-time champions Australia are the hot favourites in Birmingham and the Indians will have to beat them at some stage if they are to clinch gold. But, Manpreet said his players are not breaking sweat as yet thinking over their possible clash with the Kookaburras.

“Right now, we are focusing on the group stage matches and not thinking about Australia at all. Every one is of the opinion that we give our best in these matches and then think about what Australia has to offer when we face them,” Manpreet said at a virtual press conference ahead of the Games.

Up first, Ghana

The Indian team begins it campaign with a group match against Ghana on Sunday. Australia have won every one of the six Commonwealth Games hockey tournaments to date.

“As a team, we have set a goal that we have to win a medal in Birmingham and we can feel the weight of expectations as well. However, in order to reach that stage, we have to give our absolute best in each game and not take any opposition lightly,” he added.

Milestone for Manpreet

The 30-year-old, who will be making his 300th appearance for India when he turns out against Ghana, termed his playing career as a roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs.

“The journey has been absolutely special. It has also been a sheer honour to play for India for so long. The game has taught me so many things about life.

“I made my debut in 2011 when India won Asian Champions Trophy. However, the very next year, London Olympics was disastrous as we could not win a single game. We improved by leaps and bounds in the next few years by winning some big events. So, it has been a roller-coaster ride for me,” Manpreet said.

Head coach Graham Reid, who has been at the helm of affairs since 2019, said he’s fully aware of what the players are capable of achieving in Birmingham.

“We have great expectations from each other in Birmingham. Yes, there will be huge expectations from the Indian fans as well, wanting us to win a medal. But these are external pressure and we cannot do much about it. We can only control what is within our grasp,” Reid said.

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