Interview with Malak Singh: "HIL experience benefited me hugely”
A plethora of youngsters have donned the senior national team jersey after the disastrous wooden spoon finish at last year’s London Olympics. Indian team chief coach Michael Nobbs has laid high emphasis on blooding youngsters in a bid to build a solid team for the future.
The FIH 34th Champions Trophy, 2nd Asian Champions Trophy, Hockey World League Round 2 Tournament and the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Tournament saw Nobbs induct many youngsters – most of whom have come through the junior ranks.
Malak Singh is one of those youngsters who has made all and sundry sit up and take notice of him. The young forward made a big impression on his senior international debut in the Hero Hockey World League Round 2 tournament against unfancied Fiji, scoring two second half goals in India’s big 16-0 triumph.
As a mark of encouragement for his debut match, Hockey India awarded him Rs 1 lakh. “It was my first senior international debut; I was so happy to score two goals for my team – an effort for which Hockey India gave me a cash reward,” Malak says in an exclusive interview to Sportskeeda.
Malak turned in an outstanding performance, with his aggressive runs down the flanks, slick passing and decent finishing. It is always said that one man’s loss is another man’s gain. That was precisely the case with Malak. The diminutive forward was only a standby for the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Tournament and only made it to the team after regular forward Gurwinder Singh Chandi failed to recover from his ankle ligament injury. “I came into the side in place of Chandi. Having enjoyed a decent outing in the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament, I was raring to fare well in the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Tournament,” he gushes.
Malak, who hails from the Sirsa district of Haryana, capped off a memorable tournament in Ipoh, rattling the opposition cage thrice. “Obviously it feels good to score goals against top sides. I scored the third goal against Australia and Pakistan, while the goal I scored against Korea was set up brilliantly by Mandeep Singh,” the Western Railways employee recalls fondly.
Malak is, however, clear that merely scoring goals is not always his cup of tea. “As a forward, my job is to score goals. At the same time, I focus hard on essaying accurate passes and making timely tackles as these aspects can change the outcome of a match,” he reasons.
The 20-year-old honed his hockey skills at the Namdhari Sports Academy, Ludhiana, where he had a seven-year stint (2005-11). “I learnt my hockey lessons under Olympian Didar Singh, who did the coaching under the supervision of Thakur Udai Singh.”
Malak made his junior international debut at the 2011 Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia, where he scored 4 goals. “The junior debut was a good one for me. I scored two goals in our 4-6 defeat to Korea – a match where we led Korea 4-0 at half-time before they scored six times in the second half. Then, I scored both the goals against New Zealand whom we beat 2-1,” he reels out facts excitedly.
The youngster has no doubts that his self-belief has gone up hugely after his stint in the Hockey India League. “The experience of playing in the HIL really enhanced my self-belief. The HIL stint made me feel more at ease while playing in the senior team in the Hockey World League and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup,” he quips.
Malak, who turned out for Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the HIL, says he richly benefited playing alongside a legend like Jamie Dwyer. “I heard of Jamie Dwyer as a big player. So, it felt really good to play alongside a legend like me. His pep talk were always motivating for us.”
The youngster is confident of India faring well in the Hockey World League semifinals slated to be held in Rotterdam, the Netheralands this June. “We have a talented side. We would work hard at our upcoming camp, starting in Bengaluru from April 6th. We are upbeat about qualifying for HWL Round 3,” he signs off on a bullish note.