Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh has said that fitness levels in the team are top-notch and there will be no let down in intensity until the final whistle in any of their upcoming games. India begins their Tokyo Olympics round-robin engagements on July 24 against eighth-ranked New Zealand.
Many members of the Indian hockey team have passed the infamous yo-yo test, said Manpreet Singh.
“Our fitness levels are awesome. We have close to 13 or 14 players who have aced the yo-yo test. That is something that we are proud of. For the goalkeepers, the minimum is 20 points and our custodians have even scored 21 to 22 points. 24 points is our maximum on the test for us. Another advantage of having a good fitness level is that our mental strength is also in good shape,” Manpreet Singh said, in an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda’s Indranil Basu.
The Indian hockey team is undergoing a camp at the Sports Authority of India center in Bengaluru under a strict bio-bubble environment. Regular Covid-19 tests are conducted for all the players and there are strict restrictions on them moving around.
Though bio-bubble fatigue can kick in, Manpreet Singh, however, looks at the positive side of it.
“Yes, we have been away from our families for a long time but we know that we have a target to achieve, which is an Olympic medal. We are all working hard towards that target of playing well at the Olympic Games. That’s what is in our minds. All of us are focused on how to be better. All of us have been together for a long time. The focus is completely on hockey. We have been constantly improving and working on areas like defense, penalty corners, how to attack better, reading the opponents well and analyzing their game etc. Being together in this environment has helped us immensely,” Manpreet Singh explained.
Manpreet Singh throws light on practice sessions
With pandemic-induced lockdowns wreaking havoc everywhere, the Indian hockey team haven’t got as much match practice as they would have loved to. However, Manpreet Singh was still upbeat.
“We would have loved to play as many matches as we could. But as a team, we have also understood how to think about what is within our control. We are 33 players and we divide ourselves into two teams and play high-intensity games between us. We also place friendly challenges among ourselves. There will be payments, there will be a punishment for the losing team. Although there are 33 of us in the camp, only 11 can play in the team and everyone is gunning to be in that 11. So, every player is giving their best and our practice sessions are of very high intensity, compensating for the lack of match practice,” Manpreet Singh added.
The Indian team's defense has been a tad fragile of late, and coach Graham Reid has made strengthening it his top priority, and Manpreet Singh concurs with his coach.
“We have worked on our defense. We have been working to tackle opponents outside the ‘D’ so that we don’t leak penalty corners. We have to reduce the number of opportunities we give our opponents. The goal is, out of 10 we have to bring it down to just three or four chances. This is possible with a tight man-to-man marking,” Manpreet Singh said.
With a bullish captain and a team that is in fine form and peak fitness levels, India will hope to make major inroads at the Tokyo Olympics and return with a medal that has eluded the hockey team for four decades.