Asian Games-winning Indian men's hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh doesn't fancy comparisons with the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni and feels he is not as calm on the ground as the cricket legend. (More Sports News)
Harmanpreet, who led the team from the front and returned as the top scorer in the Asian Games with 13 goals, has been compared to Dhoni by hockey great Dhanraj Pillay but the star drag-flicker begs to differ.
"On the ground, I am never calm. I am aggressive unlike Dhoni but off the field, I try to remain as calm as possible," Harmanpreet said during a visit to PTI headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Dhoni, who led India to the 2011 ODI World Cup title, is known as 'Captain Cool' for his calm demeanour during pressure situations.
Harmanpreet feels aggressiveness on the hockey turf comes to him naturally but he is honoured to have been compared with Dhoni.
"Aggressiveness is a must in my game but I am honoured to have been compared with the great Dhoni. But I don't feel I that calm on the pitch."
The ticket to the Paris Olympics secured, the monkey is off the back of the India men's hockey team and a relieved Harmanpreet has now trained his eyes on bettering the colour of the medal they won in Tokyo in next year's Paris Games.
With the pressure of qualification off its back, Harmanpreet said the team can focus on preparations for next year's quadrennial extravaganza.
"As a player, you are never satisfied, you know your dream. If you win a gold medal, next time you will again try to repeat the feat. That is precisely on our mind,"
"Last time we experienced the pressure of not qualifying directly for the Olympics. Now our mind is clear and we know we have qualified. Now we have time to prepare for the Olympics without thinking about qualification and give our best shot at bettering our Tokyo performance."
India won a historic Olympic bronze in Tokyo, their first podium finish in 41 years since the gold medal in Moscow, back in 1980.
Harmanpreet is happy with the bonding between players and the progress of Indian hockey, saying competition for places augurs well for the game.
"The good thing about the team is we have open conversations. There is plenty of competition in the camp and every player in the core group is good. A player, who is not selected also inspires and says if you have been given the responsibility, so go and perform. They don't think they are dropped although it is there in the back of the mind.
"All the players are aggressive, fight against each other, support each other because most of the time, we stay together in camps away from our families. We share everything with each other," he said.
Harmanpreet feels their feats will motivate youngsters to pick up the hockey stick.
"We know youngsters are looking up to us, they are picking up hockey sticks after being inspired by our feats and it is our responsibility to keep on performing and motivating the next generation. We just want to give our best in every match, in every tournament."
Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, who also visited PTI headquarters, along with Harmanpreet, veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, women's team captain Savita Punia and defender Sushila Chanu, the presence of quality drag-flickers has made India a potent force in world hockey.
"This time we got to see consistent performance from the team. We were never under pressure in any match. Against Korea in the semifinal, we were a little taken by shock but the players stood up and delivered," Tirkey said.
"In the past, we had good teams and quality players but what we lacked is a drag-flicker. Pakistan at that time had Sohail Abbas but now we have quality drag-flickers in Harmanpreet, Amit Rohidas and Varun Kumar. We didn't get quality drag-flickers in our time."