Acknowledging Harmanpreet Singh's quick-learning abilities, former drag-flick specialist VR Raghunath heaped high praise on the current India vice captain ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. One of the vital cogs in the Indian setup, Singh is known for giving the team early breakthroughs.
Hailing from the outskirts of Amritsar, Harmanpreet Singh made a name for himself when he won the FIH Junior World Cup in Lucknow. Over time, the defender was drafted into the senior India setup, making him one of the most potent drag-flickers in the world. The 25-year-old has scored 71 goals in 119 matches for India so far.
Speaking to the Hockey India podcast, Raghunath went back in time, recalling how Harmanpreet Singh adapted to the standards required for international hockey. The 32-year-old stated that treating Harmanpreet Singh as one of their brothers also helped in his rise.
“Harman had immediately arrived after the U-21 World Cup win. There were instructions from the coaches to take him under our wing, to protect him at least for 30-40 matches so that he could get an idea of what international hockey is all about,” explained the 2014 Asian Games champion.
“We guided him and he grasped things very quickly. We could see the results in just three-four months. He started scoring as well. Rupinder Pal Singh and I tried to treat him like a brother and not as a player. Our coaches have moulded us in such a way that the juniors are comfortable around the seniors,” added Raghunath.
India are better prepared for Olympics: VR Raghunath
Raghunath, who represented India in more than 200 matches during his career, also felt that players like the familiarity fostered between Harmanpreet Singh and the others will help them perform. On India’s chances at the Tokyo Olympics, the former international believes that the current batch are capable of bettering their 2016 Rio Olympics performances.
“The same batch of players have been around for seven-eight years now, they are in touch with European players. They can perform much better than Rio. In the Olympics, it comes down to one or two matches and how you get your rhythm right in the arena,” explained Raghunath.
“The players are in the same age group and have been quarantined together for a long time so they are familiar with each other and have been winning FIH Pro League games as well. Players like Rupinder and Manpreet were around in the previous edition as well. They have covered every area well,” concluded Raghunath.