Indian hockey Coach Roelant Oltmans was all praise for hat-trick hero Mandeep Singh, calling him the best striker in the Indian team. The 22-year-old scored three field goals to lead India’s thrilling 4-3 victory over Japan in the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh on Wednesday

“Mandeep is always dangerous, a crazy guy. He is very difficult to defend,” Oltmans said, about the young striker who has reclaimed his spot in the national squad after India’s triumph in the Junior World Cup last December.

“In the circle, Mandeep creates chances out of nowhere. We have seen that many times. He’s still very young, and he’s getting better and better,” the coach said.

“If you look at the number of goals, he’s surely out best striker. Akashdeep Singh is the only other striker who has scored for us so far. Our remaining goals have all come from penalty corners,” Oltmans was quoted as saying by PTI.

Mandeep is only 22 years of age and the coach believes the youngster would reach his prime around 24 or 25.

“He is superbly fit. By the next Olympics, he’ll produce a higher quality of hockey,” Oltmans asserted.

“You can see not only in his attacking actions, but also the way Mandeep tries to put pressure on opponents. He’s always working on regaining the ball and that is an important part of our defensive structure,” he said.

“Mandeep is more or less the first defender when the opponents have got possession.”

On India’s narrow victory over Japan, Oltmans said his team was attacking too much at one stage and that allowed Japan to create problems on the counter.

“The Japanese fell back and just defending. But it gave them the opportunity to counter, and they did it quite well a few times,” the coach opined.

“We had clear plans how to handle that, but to be honest we didn’t do it well enough. It prompted us to change the tactics at half time.

“The fourth quarter saw really good hockey. I think we created many opportunities and space in the last quarter. We also waited for the moment when we could score the goals and things clicked for us,” Oltmans added.