New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) Promising dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh on Thursday said playing in the Hockey India League (HIL) has helped youngsters like him overcome the fear of playing against tough opponents during India's successful campaign at the Junior World Cup in Lucknow.
The 21-year-old defender, who plays for the Dabang Mumbai franchise in the HIL, alongside 2012 Olympic gold medallist from Germany Florian Fuchs, Australia's Kieran Govers and David Harte of Ireland, feels constant interaction with players has boosted his confidence.
"Getting to play against top players like Mark Knowles or Moritz Fuerste would also mean that I would have to get rid of the fear of playing against great players," Singh said.
"Initially, even the thought would make me nervous but I think constant interaction with players within my team (Dabang Mumbai) like Florian made me more confident. The foreign players are very encouraging and they don't hesitate in correcting our mistakes."
"Personally, for me, this made a lot of difference especially when I got a chance to play with the senior squad and faced tough opponents in the FIH Champions Trophy and in the Rio Olympics and the recent Junior World Cup in Lucknow, I knew I had nothing to fear against the top teams and that I must just stick to my game," he added.
Harmanpreet, who was instrumental in the junior team World Cup win after a 15-year hiatus, said every foreign player came with his own style of play and the new combinations which the teams in HIL try, helps the youngsters when they play for the national squad.
"Usually when we play different national teams, the coach brings in different tactics based on that particular opponent's pluses and minuses."
"Our planning for the Junior World Cup was also executed similarly and due to our exposure in the HIL where we learn to adapt to different variations in a very short span of time it just became a lot easier for us to execute the plans Coach Roelant Oltmans had for us," Harmanpreet said.
For Gurjant Singh who is also part of Dabang Mumbai and was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match in the final at the Junior World Cup, HIL taught him how to cope with pressure.
"Playing in front of big crowds can be very intimidating and it can also sometimes inflict self-imposed pressure. But I think the experience in HIL helped us cope with such an atmosphere because at the Junior World Cup in Lucknow, the supporters turned out in great numbers and would cheer loudly, so loud that sometimes we could not hear the calls by our own team-mates."
"But we learnt to deal with that through HIL," said the lanky forward.
"I am looking forward to the start of the league as it's a very different environment and playing with foreign players is a different joy all together.".
Harmanpreet Singh and Gurjant Singh will be joined by goalkeeper Krishan B. Pathak, Manpreet and S.H. Nilakanta Sharma from the junior squad for Dabang Mumbai.