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Young guns set to make their World Cup debut

Thursday, 29 May 2014 - 7:50am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Mandeep, Manpreet say there is pressure but both will look to give their best

Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh have a lot in common. Both are from Jalandhar, both are a product of the Surjit Hockey Academy, both play for Ranchi Rhinos in the Hockey India League (HIL), both are the future stars of Indian hockey, and both will be playing their first World Cup for the senior national hockey team.

The duo has been a cog in the wheel of the senior team for more than a year now. And make no mistake, if India are to do well in the Hockey World Cup that kickstarts on May 31 at the Hague, Manpreet and Mandeep will have to perform at their optimum as halfback and forward, respectively.

Manpreet, 21, is more experienced of the two, making his senior debut in 2011 and being a regular member of the team ever since. Mandeep, 19, shot to fame after an excellent show in the inaugural HIL last year that immediately got him into the senior team. He's not looked back since.
Both know this is one of the toughest assignments of their careers so far, and are going in with a tinge of excitement and pressure.

"I'm very excited to be part of such a big tournament," Manpreet said. "I'm confident and nervous at the same time. Personally, there is a lot of pressure on me when I'm off the ground. But once I enter the field, and the entire team motivates each other, it vanishes. Once I get into my game zone, I feel no pressure at all."

Head coach Terry Walsh had said before the team's departure that he would be shocked if there wasn't some degree of stage fright among youngsters like Manpreet and Mandeep. Clearly, there seems to be none.

"Pressure comes naturally, but we don't want to take any of it. We're going in with the simple mindset to perform to the best of our levels and go into the first match with the objective of winning," said Mandeep, who is back in the team after a two-and-a-half-month injury layoff.

What would help the lads is that both have the experience of representing India at the Junior World Cup held in the country last December. However, both would like to bury the ghosts of it, especially Manpreet, who led the team to a disappointing 10th place finish.

"Our performance in the Junior World Cup was not good. I don't want it to happen with the senior team. That's why I'm putting in a lot of hard work. What I couldn't do with the junior team, I want to do with the senior team," Manpreet said.

Ask them how far they see the team going in this World Cup, and the reply again comes on similar lines.

"We want to ensure we don't finish outside the top eight. If we do, it will be very disappointing. If we better that, it will be great. But our practise sessions have been really good and I feel we'll come back with a good show this time," Manpreet said.

"It all depends on how we play in the first match, and then we'll look to increase our performance level. But I'm very confident that we'll come back with a good result," he added.

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