On December 18, 2016, when Gurjant Singh hit a fiery Tomahawk in the starting minutes into Belgium’s net, it was evident that the Junior World Cup trophy was staying in India. Yes, we are talking about the FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup in Lucknow in 2016. What a historic night for India that was!
The 22 players in the team (including the stand-by players) made India proud by winning the Junior World Cup for the second time. It was a long wait of 15 years after having won it back in 2001.
While many players from the Junior World Cup winning team went on to represent the Senior Indian team, many have already disappeared from the hockey circuit. Let’s take a look at all the 22 players and what they are doing now.
Harjeet Singh (Captain) – The star of the Junior World Cup-winning team, Harjeet, has fallen down the ranks in the last few years. The midfield maestro, touted as the next Sardar Singh, has found it difficult to cement his place in the senior team.
Harjeet has also tried his luck in the Dutch leagues and had also returned to the national reckoning in 2019 but failed to make it to the core group. He currently works for BPCL and is looking to make a comeback into the senior side.
Harmanpreet Singh – The man who made the maximum out of the Junior World Cup and the current vice-captain of the Senior Men’s Team, Harman has lived up to the expectations. Perhaps India’s best drag-flicker at the moment, the Olympic bronze medalist is the next big thing in Indian Hockey.
Mandeep Singh – Another Olympic medalist who had already made his senior India debut before the Junior World Cup but cemented his place in the side after his heroics at Lucknow. Mandeep is employed at BPCL and is a live wire inside the shooting circle.
Varun Kumar – A drag flicker par excellence, Varun was on stand-by for the Tokyo Olympics but luckily got to make his Olympic debut and made an impact immediately. From junior to senior side, Harman and Varun have been India’s drag-flicking constants. Varun currently works at BPCL (alongside Harmanpreet, again).
Simranjeet Singh – A top-notch forward who scores goals with ease, Simran scored a goal in the final of the Junior World Cup and also scored a brace in India’s bronze medal win at the Olympics. Simran is employed at Indian Oil and is one of their main forwards.
Gurjant Singh – With already 54 caps to his name, Gurjant has managed to keep his place in the team. He was also a part of the main team that won bronze at the Olympics. Gurjant currently works with ONGC.
Sumit – The 26-year-old midfielder from Haryana hasn’t looked back after 2016. He has proved his mettle in midfield, making him a powerhouse in the Indian team. Sumit currently works with the ONGC and was also a part of the bronze-medal winning Olympic hockey team.
Krishan B Pathak – One of the goalkeepers of the team, Pathak didn’t get much game time during the Junior World Cup, but was drafted into the Sr. National Camp before the Hockey World Cup in 2018.
Pathak has been a regular at the Senior India Camp since then and also traveled to Tokyo with the team as a reserve goalkeeper. He currently works with Indian Oil and is their first-choice goalkeeper for domestic tournaments.
Nilakanta Sharma – The lightning-fast midfielder from Manipur who is a product of the famous MP Hockey Academy in Bhopal, has been in the national camp in Bengaluru for a long time. He made a swift transition from junior to the senior side. Nilakanta, who works with Western Railways, was also a part of the bronze-winning hockey team.
Hardik Singh and Dilpreet Singh – Both the Punjab lads who were named as the stand-by players for the Hockey Junior World Cup in 2016 didn’t get a game to play. But life had a different story for them. They both not only fought their way into the Senior Indian Camp but also made it to the main team of the Tokyo Olympics, this time not as a stand-by. Both of them work at Indian Oil.
Vikas Dahiya – The main goalkeeper of the team who played a big role in India’s win at the 2016 Junior World Cup, Vikas has found it difficult to find a place in the Senior Indian Team. Although he has been a consistent performer in the domestic tournaments playing for Bharat Petroleum, he hasn’t been able to break into the Senior National Camp.
Dipsan Tirkey – The vice-captain of the team, Dipsan, happens to be from the same village as hockey legend Dilip Tirkey. His fiery slap shots and long passes make him stand out. Dipsan currently works with BPCL and has been a regular at the Senior Indian Camp in Bengaluru. He wasn’t lucky enough though to be part of the 16-member Olympic team.
Sumit Kumar (Jr.) – The UP lad who was on the stand-by list and has been in and out of the Indian Camp. Although he has a well-settled job with Indian Oil, he hasn’t made much impact with the Senior National Team.
Armaan Qureshi – A forward who was one of the fastest in running with the ball, made his Senior India debut in 2017 but has found it difficult to make it to the Senior Camp after playing only 17 matches. Armaan plays in a lot of leagues abroad and currently works for Indian Oil. He is looking to break into the senior squad once again.
Ajit Kumar Pandey – Another UP lad who had the privilege to play in front of his home crowd, has disappeared with time. He played only four games for the senior team in 2016 and hasn’t been back to the national reckoning since then. Ajit currently works for Secunderabad Railways.
Suraj Karkera – The stand-by goalkeeper for the Junior World Cup, played almost every tournament before the World Cup but wasn’t selected in the main team. He is still in the Senior Indian Camp as one of the core-group goalkeepers along with PR Sreejesh and Krishan B Pathak but is still waiting to get a good international game from the last two years. Suraj has a prestigious job with the Indian Army now.
Parvinder Singh and Santa Singh – The two of the three players who couldn’t make their Senior India debuts are Parvinder and Santa. While Parvinder had injury woes and hence couldn’t get his chances with the senior team, Santa was drafted into the senior camps but couldn’t cement his place in the core group. Both of them work for Punjab and Sindh Bank now.
Vikramjit Singh – He is another player who has failed to make his Senior India debut yet. When he was called to Senior Camp in 2019, he failed to make it to the core group of 33. He has been playing actively on the domestic circuit for his employer Indian Oil.
While all 22 players have got good jobs and the majority of them are still in the Indian Senior Team's reckoning, few like Santa and Parvinder have failed to make it to the Senior Team.
When is the Junior World Cup 2021 scheduled?
The FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup starts on November 24th 2021 at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, which also hosted the Senior Men’s World Cup in 2018.
A total of 33 players are going on through rigorous training at the SAI Camp in Bengaluru and the team for the Junior World Cup might be announced by the second week of November.