Sidelined after a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2018, young India hockey team striker Dilpreet Singh revealed it was chief coach Graham Reid’s pep talk during a junior training camp that motivated him to work hard and reclaim his spot in the senior side.
The 20-year-old had shown a lot of promise when he made his senior India debut in 2018 and was touted as the next big thing in Indian hockey.
But after an ordinary show in the FIH men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, Dilpreet was demoted to the junior ranks.
“I was in the junior national camp when chief coach Graham (Reid) watched me train and spoke to me individually,” recalled Dilpreet, who was a key player in the Indian junior team’s silver-winning effort at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year.
Dilpreet admitted that it was this meeting with Reid last year that fast-tracked his return to the senior side.
“When he met me, Graham spent quite some time with me to understand my background, how I got into hockey and he was interested to know more about my game though he said he had seen me during the World Cup,” he said.
“He asked me to work hard, improve my attitude, be more disciplined in my game and work on my fitness level if I wanted to make a comeback in the senior camp.
“Conversation with the chief coach gave me a lot of confidence and hope,” added Dilpreet, who hails from Butala village near Amritsar.
Dilpreet’s hardwork bore fruit when he was picked in the core probables group for the FIH Hockey Pro League season earlier this year.
The young forward admitted that he was nervous while making his comeback but skipper Manpreet Singh was there by his side to calm his nerves.
“I did feel the pressure initially but Manpreet would have long chats with me which helped in building my confidence.
“When I was called up for the match against Belgium, he advised me to play with confidence and focus on the specific role given to me. I was quite nervous and was not sure if I was up for the challenge...but Manpreet and other seniors gave me that confidence,” Dilpreet said.
With the Tokyo Olympics now postponed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dilpreet feels he has more time in his hands to hone his skills and iron out the grey areas in his game.
“After the FIH Hockey Pro League matches, the chief coach had asked me to improve on certain areas like my defensive skills, tackling and putting pressure in the final minutes of the match.
“The postponement will certainly give youngsters like me a chance to prove ourselves and keep hopes up to earn a place in the India squad for the Olympics,” he said.