Interview with Jasjit Singh: "We need to improve as a team to conquer world hockey"
He was, without a shadow of doubt, the team’s ‘biggest positive’ from the Hockey World League Semifinal Round in Belgium. Jasjit Singh Kular unveiled his drag-flicking prowess during the quarterfinal against Malaysia, where he scored two late goals to help his country sneak into the semi-finals. The 25-year-old, who made his senior international debut in the 2014 World Cup, hails from the famous Sansarpur hamlet, which has produced as many as fourteen Olympians.
Jasjit, who is employed with Indian Railways, spoke on his game and much more in an exclusive interview over the phone.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. The European tour is seen as a huge opportunity to gain exposure of playing European sides, against whom we have struggled from time to time. Your thoughts.
Playing against teams like France and Spain will be a handy experience for us. Playing European teams will stand us in good stead as there are a lot of improvements we can make merely by playing them.
Q. You played a key role in India reaching the last-four stage of the Hockey World League Semifinal Round in Belgium with your two late goals. How did you feel?
I was really happy to contribute to the team’s win. We were trailing 1-2 at one stage and it was highly satisfying to score two penalty corner goals when the team needed the most. The first of the two goals was my first drag-flick goal for the country, something I will cherish for a long time.
Q. Indian hockey players are not known to speak fluent English, but you are an exception. Could you tell us more about that?
I think it has to do with my education and family background. My parents and my elder sister are all doctors.
Q. You were born in Sansarpur, which has a rich legacy of producing 14 Olympians.
I know the place has a great legacy although the things are not the same in terms of players from this area playing for the country. My grandfather Sardar Gurdayal Singh used to play hockey for the Sikh Regiment.
Q. Were you a late starter to hockey?
I started playing hockey in second or third standard and it was purely for fun. I took up hockey as a serious career option only when I was studying in Jalandhar’s Khalsa college. I had to work hard to get into the final XI of my college side. Unlike most juniors, I never joined an academy.
Q. India has drag-flickers like V R Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurjinder Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and now you are also an added option. Is this problem of plenty in the drag-flick department a good augury for the side?
Oh yes! It’s good that there is competition among drag-flickers as it ensures each of us keeps improving and not get complacent. Rupinder and Raghunath have experience and I have learnt a lot from their drag-flicks.
Q. Your senior international debut was at the 2014 World Cup in The Hague. How were you feeling at the tournament?
It was exciting to play for the country and there was pressure as well being a big-ticket event. The World Cup was a huge learning curve for me and I also scored my maiden international goal in my first international tourney against Malaysia.
Q. You have played in various positions, but which is the one position you like playing the most?
I’m enjoying my present defender role. I had started my career as a forward and had made my debut in the 2014 World Cup as a midfielder.
Q. Former national coach Paul van Ass was impressed with your skills as a defender and the drag-flick is an important weapon in your arsenal. Do you think being a good fullback coupled with solid PC goal-scoring skills will help to cement your place in the national side?
Look, I don’t think on these lines. Individual improvement is fine, but unless we improve as a team it is of no use. We have to improve as a team and that is the only way we can conquer world hockey.
Q. Do you think hockey has decent money for youngsters to take up the sport.
I agree things are looking up, but parents are still sceptical about allowing their kids to take hockey as a career option. I’m not saying that jobs are not there, but the mindset of parents has to change. Parents still have reservations about putting their kids in hockey, as putting kids in individual sports will pay rich dividends. A good hockey stick or shoe will cost us Rs 10,000 and upwards and if you happen to be a goalkeeper the whole kit comes to around Rs 1 lakh. I think parents must be encouraged to believe hockey can be a career option for their kids.