Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh has revealed that the squad members enjoy a great relationship with each other, with any heated discussions on the field not carried off it.
Manpreet Singh spoke in detail about his hockey career and the evolution of the Indian hockey team in an exclusive chat with Indranil Basu on Sportskeeda Live.
The midfielder mentioned that the seniors in the camp like P.R. Sreejesh and he himself always ensure that the youngsters are comfortable and are not in awe of the experienced players.
"Always when I go to camp, I try to ensure that there is no gap between juniors and seniors. The junior players should not think how they can discuss with Manpreet or Sreejesh. There is no barrier within the team."
"We joke with junior players like Rajkumar, Vivek or Nilakanta so that they feel comfortable and create a family atmosphere. So, they also give suggestions off the field on how to improve the combination on the field."
Manpreet Singh observed that the Indian hockey team is like a family which discusses amongst themselves how to improve their game, with everyone voicing their opinion.
"We need to listen to each other's point of view, we are like a family so we solve all the problems together as a team. Before adopting any approach, we discuss if it is good for the team or not."
Manpreet Singh talked about the team dinners, bowling and volleyball sessions when asked about the bonding exercises the squad members get involved in.
"Depending on our schedule, if we have had a hectic session then we prefer not to go out but when we have a light session we ask the team trainer and coaches to go for a team dinner. So, we used to go for dinners in Bangalore, bowling sessions and used to play volleyball together. At times, we had a barbecue dinner together before the lockdown. All these things keep on happening in parallel."
Manpreet Singh disclosed that the biggest team bonding happens during birthday celebrations, with the cake being applied on the senior players' faces irrespective of whose birthday it is.
"The biggest bonding is during birthdays. Whoever's birthday it is, my birthday is celebrated along with that. We even have fun with the coach during that time. The cake will be applied on Sreejesh, Rupinderpal and me even if it is our birthday or not."
Manpreet Singh on the heated exchanges not carried off the field
Manpreet Singh was asked how he would react in a situation with tension between the players. The Indian captain responded there are instances when the atmosphere gets a little heated on the training pitch or during a match.
"We play a challenging game on the ground where we are very focused and serious. So, sometimes the atmosphere becomes a little hot. Because no one in the team likes to lose. So we put all the hard work during training."
The winner of the '2019 FIH Men's Player of the Year Award' added that the Australian coaches of the Indian team, Graham Reid and Chris Ciriello, encourage a competitive atmosphere on the training pitch.
"The coach also wants us to keep the fighting spirit and winning mentality during training. Because Chris Ciriello and Graham Reid are from the Australian team, who have a winning mentality. So, the atmosphere gets heated only during the game but never off the field. Off the field, we are always together."
Manpreet Singh elaborated that the players understand that any heated discussions on the field are only for the betterment of the game and the acrimony is not carried outside the field.
"Because whatever happens on the field remains there, it is not continued outside. All players know that if anyone is speaking, it is only about the game and not outside. The coach asks us to focus on ourselves, in which case such issues will never happen. So, they ask us to play team games. At the most, we have 1% such situations."
The Indian men's hockey team led by Manpreet Singh has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2021. They had made a bright start to the year 2020 with consistent performances against strong Dutch and Belgian oppositions in the FIH Pro League before the lockdown-forced break.