New Delhi: For the past one week, 21-year-old Gurjant Singh has had a surreal experience at the Dabang Mumbai camp at the Mahindra Hockey Stadium in Mumbai.
The lanky India forward, who shot to fame with a stunning reverse hit that ensured India took an early lead against Belgium in the final of the Junior World Cup in December, has been spending some quality time with Dabang Mumbai captain Florian Fuchs, an accomplished forward for the German national team, working on ironing out the flaws in his game and ensuring he stays in prime form ahead of the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) slated to begin on 21 January.
Florian, interestingly, has rechristened Gurjant’s name as Backhand for his exceptional field goal at the Junior World Cup. “Florian calls me Backhand now,” Gurjant laughs. “He doesn’t call me by my name. He said, he watched all of our matches during the Junior World Cup and has told me that he is excited to play with me because he can get to see similar such goals live on the field during the Coal India HIL. It’s just so encouraging when we hear him talk about how we played,” Gurjant says with glee.
For a young player like Gurjant, a compliment such as this from an Olympic gold medalist makes a big difference. He says, “Spending time with Florian has been an enriching experience because he is full of positive attitude. He is a nice guy by nature. There are times during a match when we get frustrated too soon because of missed passes or a silly mistake. He often tells us not to think about what you missed but to quickly move on and think of how you can improve. I think these small yet valuable lessons are important going forward in my career,” Gurjant admits.
During this year’s Coal India HIL, Gurjant is eager to play against the Delhi Waveriders because the team has many of his compatriots from the junior India squad. “The team has Mandeep, Harjeet, Parvinder, Santa and also Rupinder bhai (Senior Indian team’s dragflick expert). We have played a lot with these guys in the camp and playing against them now at the Coal India HIL is a different excitement. We always engage in fun banter ahead of our game and challenge each other,” he says.
He further added how Dabang Mumbai avenged their loss to Delhi Waveriders in their home ground in Mumbai last year. “They pulled our leg a lot for that loss but then we went to Delhi and beat them by eight goals to avenge the loss. We keep challenging each other this way,” Gurjant talks of the healthy rivalry.
Speaking about their first game against Ranchi Rays on 21 January, Gurjant is confident his team will begin the league with a win. “Our team has been together since last year and we have gelled well. Last year we beat Ranchi Rays with a 10-man team because Affan Yousuf was given a red card. That win gave us a lot of confidence going forward in the league. This year too we are confident we can repeat such a performance,” an optimistic Gurjant expressed.