Gold at CWG, Asiad our main targets: Hockey captain Manpreet

Dhaka: Manpreet Singh in action during the Final against Malaysia in the Hero Asia Cup 2017 at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Oct 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS)

Bengaluru,   India’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh on Friday declared that the side’s ambition in 2018 was to win the gold medal in Commonwealth Games and clinch the Asian Games gold for the second consecutive time.

Manpreet felt that the bronze medal in the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in December 2017 gave them enormous confidence going into the new year which has as many as four major tournaments lined up.

With the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy, 2018 Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy and the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, the team will be put through testing times — but Manpreet was certain the team’s goals were realistic.

“There is no doubt we are approaching this year with clear goals of winning in the CWG and defending our gold medal at the Asian Games. And it is important we convert our weaknesses into our strength before entering these major events,” Manpreet emphasised on the eve of their departure to New Zealand where they will compete in the Four Nations Invitational Tour.

The team will play two separate five-day Series against Belgium, New Zealand and Japan starting on January 17 at the Blake Park in Tauranga followed by five-day Series at the Gallagher Hockey Centre in Hamilton that ends on January 28.

With a young team that features four debutants, skipper Manpreet stressed on the importance of this tournament.

“It is always good to start the season with some good matches against top teams. We have Belgium in our pool in the World Cup this year and as many matches we play against them, the better for us. With teams like New Zealand and Japan in the fray, this tour will certainly help us in our preparations for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” said the 25-year-old midfielder.

“After the HWL Final, we recognized some of the areas that we were lacking in. We knew we can do better in defence, man-to-man marking in the circle and we did work on that in the national camp.”

Looking back at the HWL Final in Bhubaneswar, Manpreet said doing well against teams like Australia, Belgium and Germany has instilled a new confidence in the team.

“It was very important to do well against these tops teams in a big event. Earlier, somewhere at the back of our minds, we lacked the confidence that we can do well against higher ranked teams but now we don’t doubt our abilities against top teams and play with the belief that we can win against them.

“We were the youngest team in the tournament and how we played instils new confidence in the minds of the youngsters,” he said.