New Delhi, 29th December 2016: Since its inception in 2013, the Hockey India League (HIL) has provided a great platform to upcoming junior talent in the country. The format of the league is such that it provides youngsters a rare opportunity to cut their teeth professionally alongside international greats. As a result, the league has helped recognize and bring to the fore several junior players who made the country proud with their recent triumph at the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men Lucknow 2016.

One such player is dragflicker and defender Harmanpreet Singh who plays for Dabang Mumbai. For the 21-year-old Harmanpreet, playing in a team that comprises 2012 Olympic Gold medalist from Germany Florian Fuchs, Australia’s Kieran Govers and David Harte of Ireland helped him get over the fear of playing against some of the toughest opponents. “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,” recalls Harmanpreet Singh of his first HIL outing. “Initially, even the thought would make me nervous but I think constant interactions 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,” stated Singh.

He further added that every foreign player comes with his own style of play and the new combinations the teams in HIL try helps them when they play for the national squad. He explains, “Usually when we play different national teams, the Coach brings in different tactics based on that particular opponent’s plus 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.

Meanwhile, 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 chant loud cheers, so loud that sometimes we can’t hear the calls by our own teammates. 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,” Gurjant said. 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.

With the Coal India Hockey India League slated to begin on 21 January 2017in Mumbai, the wait to see the emergence of some exciting young prodigies who will perhaps make it to the senior squad from 2017.