New Delhi: India's drag-flick specialist Sandeep Singh says he has worked out a plan to hoodwink the European chargers rushing out to foil him from taking perfect penalty-corner hits.
"How exactly he is going to get the better of the lightning fast marauders? How can I reveal a secret plan? You only have to see it while it is being executed in London," Sandeep quipped mischievously.
"Jokes apart, I have really worked out something special to tackle the Europeans when they charge out to check my penalty-corner flicks or drives. I hope I can beat them, though I can't divulge what exactly I intend doing," Sandeep told IANS in an interview before leaving on the European tour.
A catalyst in India qualifying for the Olympics, scoring five goals including a hat-trick in India's 8-1 demolition of France in the final, Sandeep was the tournament's top scorer with 16 goals.
"While taking penalty corners my aim is to somehow score. It takes a lot of hard work to master the skill, you can't become an expert overnight. For 10 years I have worked tirelessly to reach the level I am today."
In 2009 when he captained India to victory in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, he was considered the world's best drag-flicker, imparting a speed of 145km in his hits. With a conversion rate of almost 90 percent, there is no denying Sandeep's drag-flicking ability and finesse. However, experts have doubts about his defensive and play-making skills.
"I know my limitations as a defender and coaches Michael Nobbs and Dilip Tirkey have helped me a lot in improving my defence. I underwent special training to improve my footwork and speed," said Sandeep.
Sandeep, along with Ignace Tirkey, are going to be the only two players in the team to have an Olympic experience. They were part of India's team to Athens in 2004 where they had a horrendous time. The team failed miserably. With just two victories, India had to settle for seventh position, as they did in Sydney in 2000
Four years later, India for the first time in 80 years failed to qualify for the Olympics, in Beijing.
"We have a great mix of youth and experience in our team. After the Beijing disappointment, I'm sure we will perform much better this time around, we have a mature bunch. We are in a tough group, but we have performed well against them in bi-lateral series and their is no reason why we can't do it at a major competition like the Olympics," said the ex-captain.
Sandeep feels Nobbs and physiologist David John have done wonders with the team's physical fitness and the two have brought about some positive changes to the team. The Indian team has always been known for its flair rather than its robustness and Sandeep feels the high-altitude training has made the team a lot fitter.
"Fitness was a concern earlier. But thanks to the high-altitude training, we have improved a lot. Our team is much fitter now and we feel we are ready for the Olympics."
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