Rupinder says younsters ripe enough to thrive at Azlan Shah

Indo Asian News Service

Bengaluru, April 18 (IANS) Ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh believes that the youngsters in the Indian squad have matured a lot during the 40-day national camp that will keep them in good stead when they will compete in the 26th Sultan of Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Rupinder on Tuesday asserted that the youngsters in the team are well-prepared to take on the challenge against top teams like Malaysia, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Japan in the tournament, scheduled to be held from April 29 to May 6.

Defender Gurinder Singh, midfielders Sumit and Manpreet and goalkeeper Suraj Karkera will have a chance to make their debut for the senior India team in Malaysia.

"The 40-day camp here in Bengaluru involved a lot of hard work and mental conditioning. We have a new Analytical Coach (Hans Streeder) who has brought in some key changes in strategies. We worked a lot on specific areas and tried out new combinations during match practice," Rupinder said in a release.

"There has been a lot of emphasis on strong defence and I believe it will come down to how we implement these strategies in Malaysia that will help us win matches." stated Rupinder.

The 27-year-old will be leading India's defence along with Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Pardeep Mor and Surender Kumar.

Being the senior most in the back line, Rupinder will have to shoulder the responsibility of guiding these youngsters through the tournament, a role he is happy to take on. "Yes I do have an added responsibility of guiding these youngsters but I also believe they are ready to take on individual responsibilities.

"Each of them know what they exactly need to do and how they need to execute the plans we have against each team. I think they are ready to take on big teams," expressed a confident Rupinder.

Ahead of the start of the 40-day camp, India chief coach Roelant Oltmans had emphasised on penalty corners and improvising on the team's conversation rate.

Rupinder along with the talented Harmanpreet Singh will be India's dragflick experts in Malaysia and the team will be banking on them to convert the chances created.

Rupinder is confident they will live up to the billing. "We spend one hour everyday between 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm specifically for drag flicks. We are also joined by former India drag-flicker Jugraj Singh who is part of the coaching staff. Jugraj has been my idol and he was also the one to introduce me to drag-flick when I began my career so working with him has been great.

"He has been able to help us with finer details which we would otherwise miss. Having a specific coach for drag flicking while chief coach Oltmans is also around has been beneficial and I am confident we will do well in Malaysia," he concluded.

--IANS

pur/dg