The 18-year-old Jalandhar lad shot to fame during the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL), in which he scored 10 goals in 13 matches, playing a key role in ensuring the Rhinos clinched the title. He also won the Upcoming Player of the Tournament award, and made hockey followers across the country sit up and take notice.
He was rewarded with a national berth almost immediately, and has since gone on to become an integral part of both the junior and senior Indian teams. In the recently-concluded Hockey World League (HWL), Mandeep scored a brilliant hat-trick in one of the best results for the senior national team in a long time – a win over Olympic champions Germany.
Mandeep has indeed come a long way since he took the HIL by storm. The excitement, thus, is not unfounded. “Yes, I’m eager to play for the Rhinos again. We had a great first season, and unlike other teams, we have stuck with the same squad more or less. So I’m confident we’ll win it this time too,” Mandeep told dna.
Having been in some great form over the past couple of months, he would surely fancy a repeat of his HIL performance in version 2.0, isn’t it?
“I hope so. I want to score a lot of goals, play good hockey and ensure my team wins every match we play. That has always been my goal,” he said.
Talking of goals, has he set any for himself this time around? Bettering his 10 goals from season one, perhaps?
“Yeah, I would love to. But you can’t tell all this...sab kismat ki baat hai (It all depends on your luck),” he said.
But he doesn’t leave everything to kismat, as was proved in the HWL, where he bagged the Best Junior Player of the Tournament award. The Germans would agree. As him about the hat-trick, and the excitement levels in his voice reach another level. “It was the first time I was playing against Germany. I never thought that I would be able to score a goal against them, let alone three,” he said.
A produce of the Surjeet Hockey Academy in Jalandhar, Mandeep is now under the wings of two distinct coaching personalities – South Africa’s Gregg Clark (Junior Indian team, Ranchi Rhinos) and Australia’s Terry Walsh (Senior Indian team). Does being coached by two different people confuse him in any way?
“Not at all. I think both the coaches are same in terms of their thinking. They both are very good, and have always encouraged me to play my natural game,” he said.