Commonwealth Games 2018: "Asian Games takes more importance than CWG for us," says Rupinder Pal Singh
One of the best drag-flickers in the world, he sends shivers down the spine of defenders with his scorching hits. His sheer presence is no less daunting with a well-toned towering frame that measures 6 feet and 4 inches. The full-back from Faridkot is a maternal cousin of former Indian international Gagan Ajit Singh.
"Bobby" as he is known in the hockey fraternity, is one of the fittest players in the game and his work-out videos have inspired many youngsters to take to the gym. He is the poster boy of Indian hockey with looks that can kill.
Sportskeeda caught up with Rupinder Pal Singh on the eve of his departure to Australia where the success of his drag-flicks will be vital to India's chances in the Commonwealth Games.
Sportskeeda: How is your preparation progressing for the Commonwealth Games?
Rupinder Pal Singh: Preparations are on really well. We have spent a lot of time and effort to concentrate on fitness and strength training. Goal scoring in another area we have concentrated on. We also focused on penalty corner conversions.
Sportskeeda: There are a lot of tournaments coming up this year. The CWG, Asian Games, and World Cup to name a few. How important will a role fitness play to shape up for all of these?
Rupinder Pal Singh: Fitness is the key. Only if you are fit, can you perform on the field. Remaining fit in the long-term while playing continuous tournaments, is a challenge.
Sportskeeda: We have seen lots of videos of you on Instagram and on social media displaying your new and innovative fitness techniques. Any different techniques this year?
Rupinder Pal Singh: The coaches focus a lot on strength training in the gym. We are focusing a lot on explosive training too. This includes speed training and agility training. This is to ensure that we are fast and agile on the field. Endurance training is another area our coaches are preparing us for.
Just before tournaments, however, speed training becomes the most important of all and this is the primary focus. Fitness is a very broad term and there are lots of categories within a certain regimen that need to be followed.
Sportskeeda: From the time Sjoerd Marijne has taken over, India is playing fast and attacking hockey. How important is speed training in this particular context?
Rupinder Pal Singh: Counter-attacks are our strength and our coach wants to us to focus on speedy attacking hockey. To play such a brand of hockey, it is absolutely imperative that one has to be extremely fit. If not, the team will pay the price. If you are fit, it benefits not only you but the entire team.
Sportskeeda: What is the philosophy of your coach with regard to the style that India will adopt. Will it be long passes (European style) or short passes with a lot of dribbling (Indian style)?
Rupinder Pal Singh: We like playing with short passes. A player has the freedom to decide how he wants to play. If a player feels he is an expert in one-versus-one attacks and is confident of dodging and pulling it off, he is welcome to attempt it. The coach is clear on that and says that dribbling your way ahead is okay if you feel it is effective in the context of the game.
There are certain areas, however, where you cannot afford to take such a risk and that has to be followed. A player has to use his discretion on the field based on what is most effective.
Sportskeeda: A lot has been said about the freedom which has been accorded by your coach to all the players. In your case, what particular areas can you use your freedom in?
Rupinder Pal Singh: As a defender, one needs to feed the mid-fielders after the ball has been intercepted by us. Our coach, however, says that if we have space ahead, we can advance ourselves and launch an attack if we feel that it will be effective at that point.
Sportskeeda: Which tournaments this season are the most important for you and for the team?
Rupinder Pal Singh: We feel the Asian Games and the World Cup are by far the most important. In the CWG, we will go for gold no doubt but it will be a preparation also for these two big tournaments.
Sportskeeda: How would you compare the coaching styles of Roelant Oltmans and Sjoerd Marijne and as a player how difficult was it to adapt to a new style?
Rupinder Pal Singh: Sjoerd Marijne believes in playing fast, attacking hockey. He does not believe in back passes. He wants us to take risks and advance at any cost. Oltmans did not like us taking such risks and promoted the concept of safe hockey. The basic structure did not change. So, we are comfortable.
Had the structure changed, however, it may have been difficult for us but that has not happened.
Sportskeeda: Which tournaments do you feel will pose a challenge for you?
Rupinder Pal Singh: The Asian Games will require us to be mentally tough. We have to win gold there and there is no other alternative. Winning the Asian Games will allow us to qualify for the Olympics. In that sense, it will be a huge challenge to prepare mentally.
Spiortskeeda: The budget presented by the Odisha government has seen a huge 26% increase in sports. Hockey has got a lot of support from the Odisha government. As a player, how important do you feel it is for the government to support hockey?
Rupinder Pal Singh: Mr. Naveen Patnaik has taken the lead in promoting hockey. The preparations for the World Cup have been amazing. It is a great feeling for us to be associated with the Odisha government who have sponsored the team. It has proven to be a great motivator for us.
Sportskeeda: How do you like the spectators in Odisha?
Rupinder Pal Singh: I have not played in front of such crowds anywhere else in the world. People are ready to brave the rain and come out to cheer us. It is a huge motivation for us to play in front of such a crowd. It is truly inspirational. The support helps to bring out the best in us.
Sportskeeda: Sportskeeda spoke to SV Sunil earlier who said that for every available position, there are three or four players in waiting. As a player, would you consider that an advantage or a disadvantage? Does it affect the chemistry between players?
Rupinder Pal Singh: It is a distinct advantage for the team. If you are not performing, I will take your place. You have to push yourself to do better to retain your place in the team. That is how a team grows. If you do not perform, you are out. There are no negative feelings between us, however. It is simply about giving your best. We are like brothers on and off the field.
Sportskeeda: What do you think Hockey India has done differently so as to obtain such a large pool of talent which was not available before?
Rupinder Pal Singh: We have a squad of 33. We used to have a set squad before, but now the coaches feel that every player does not have play every tournament. Youngsters are given a chance in some tournaments. They are picked from the selections trials in the National tournaments.