Indian men’s hockey midfielder Nilakanta Sharma has expressed that playing alongside captain Manpreet Singh helped him develop as a player and is looking to take his game to the next level in 2021.
Nilakanta was also part of the 2019 FIH Series Finals gold medal-winning team in Bhubaneswar that helped India qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
The pint-sized Nilakanta Sharma, who was a part of the Indian squad at the 2018 World Cup at home, has played 59 matches till now and is one of the vital cogs in the midfield. He also went on European and Argentine tours in 2021. At U-21 level, Nilakanta has represented India in 11 games, scoring two goals.
The 26-year-old made a humble statement stating he has learned a lot from playing alongside his captain and intends to grasp more of his mentor’s abilities in the future. With the Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, Nilakanta Sharma wants to go one notch up.
“It’s been a great journey with the Indian team so far. I have been very lucky to have the chance of playing alongside a player like Manpreet Singh in the midfield region. I have learned a lot from him,” said Nilakanta Sharma. "I have improved a lot in the last few years, but I really want to take my game to the next level this year as it's an important year for us.”
Nilakanta Sharma believes India can still improve
Despite having lost just once in 2021, Nilakanta Sharma believes the team needs to improve every day, which is directly proportional to individual improvement. Although everyone on the team is in good form, a tweak here and there would do the job, according to the Manipuri star.
“I think we can improve on executing our short passes and maintaining possession for a longer period. If we keep the ball with us for a longer period of time, then we can create more opportunities to score. We just have to make a few tweaks here and there,” added the midfielder.
India’s last medal at the Olympics came 50 years back at the 1980 Games. Nilakanta Sharma is confident that India will make history in Tokyo if everybody plays to their full potential. He added that the preparations are in full swing and the team can create something special at the Tokyo Olympics.
“The Olympics is not far away. Everyone is confident about their respective games and if we play to our full potential, we can certainly make history in the Tokyo Olympics. It’s all about peaking at the right time and that will be our main focus once the Olympics is underway,” signed off Nilakanta Sharma.