After missing Olympics, Akashdeep looks to make big impact | Hockey – SportsMediaz

Presence of mind, peripheral vision in the D combined with lethal attacking skills are some of the primary reasons why India hockey coaches—from Michael Nobbs to Graham Reid—preferred to have a certain Akashdeep Singh in their team.

Ever since he debuted at the 2012 Champions Trophy in Melbourne, the forward has been an integral part of the Indian team, playing in all major events from the Olympics to the World Cup. Akashdeep’s stock went through the roof in 2015 when he was bought as the most expensive player at the Hockey India League (HIL) auctions, taking home $84,000.

His skills and style of play often took his team to the rostrum—be it the Asian Games, Asia Cup or Champions Trophy—for which he was deservingly awarded Player of the Match and Series multiple times.

From the highest of highs, the 27-year-old also had a nadir experience when he was the most notable omission from the team that went to Tokyo last year as Reid opted for younger players. It hurt even more when the Manpreet Singh-led squad returned home with an Olympic hockey medal after a gap of 41 years.

“It was a very difficult phase for me. I can’t even explain how painful it was, how hurt my feelings were. I never thought I would not be in the team. When something happens that is not expected, it can be very difficult. I was very sad,” said the striker. “I took a big emotional hit. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone.”

Every athlete waits four years for an opportunity to represent his nation at the Olympics but when the dream shatters, it’s a tough pill to digest.

However, Akashdeep didn’t take time off. He didn’t rest.

“My only motive was to make a comeback to the Indian team. Every training session became very important for me. I had to improve myself with each session. When you’re dropped for such a big tournament, naturally your confidence also goes down massively. My primary aim was to rebuild my confidence, avail and make use of whatever chances I get,” said Akashdeep, who has scored 78 international goals in 210 matches.

The Arjuna awardee went back to the drawing board. For days, he worked hard on his skills at the Punjab Armed Police—where he’s employed—training centre in Jalandhar. Akashdeep carved out his own training schedule—multiple sessions on the pitch and half of it in the gym—to improve his fitness and gain confidence.

The striker, who can also play as a midfielder, played a couple of domestic tournaments for Punjab Police which helped him earn a call-up to the national camp. Impressive performances at the camp saw him get selected for the 2021 Asian Champions Trophy in December. The striker rose to the occasion by scoring goals against Bangladesh and Pakistan in the pool stage before scoring the winning goal against Pakistan in the bronze medal playoff.

He was selected for the 2021-22 Pro League, scoring a goal against France in February in what was his 200th international. Strong performances in the Pro League got him selected for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Birmingham.

But Akashdeep is not taking anything for granted anymore and wants to make the most of his opportunities.

“CWG is a big event. I will attempt to play my best hockey. My main aim right now is to do well in the upcoming tournament. I want to play well from hereon and see to it that India wins a medal at the 2023 World Cup too in front of our home crowd,” concluded Akashdeep.

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