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Akashdeep Singh: Room for improvement (7/10/2014)
--Suhrid Barua
Indian striker Akashdeep Singh counts on ‘room-for-improvement’ mantra

The Indian forwardline has seen a fair sprinkling of youngsters in recent times, who have been snapping at the heels of the so-called ‘senior’ pros in the team. Akashdeep Singh can easily claim to be the leader of this ‘young brigade’ with a resolute performance at the recent 2014 World Cup. undefined

The sprightly hitman, who was the country’s top goal-scorer in The Hague, scoring five goals including a brace each against Malaysia and Korea, is relatively pleased with his efforts, but also took the opportunity to underpin the importance of ‘room for improvement’. “I’m happy to have contributed for my team, but we should have finished above the 9th position we had to settle for. We fought hard against Belgium and England, and lost narrowly – late goals did us in – our overall performance did not reflect the 9th position we achieved. As for me, I have to keep improving,” the shy, demure Indian striker says in an exclusive interview.

The Punjab lad puts down India’s 9th position in the World Cup to lack of adequate big match experience of the players. “We are a talented side, but I thought that teams like England, Belgium and Australia had depth in experience – ours was a young side full of skills, but with experience we would only get better as we are no way inferior to these teams,” the 19-year-old quips.

Akashdeep took to hockey at the age of 12 at the Ludhiana Academy and after a two-year stint shifted to the Surjit Hockey Academy. His family is not exactly a ‘hockey family.

“My dad works in Punjab Police and I have one brother and sister and I’m the youngest. My two cousins – Ramandeep Singh and Amandeep Singh – have played at the national level,” he reveals.

Akashdeep made his senior international debut at the 34th Champions Trophy in Melbourne against England in December 2012. He scored his maiden international goal in India’s 4-2 win over New Zealand in an event, where India reached the semifinals after a long hiatus. The nimble-footed forward has so far scored 11 goals from 41 internationals So which is his best goal so far?

“My goal against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, where I deflected home a diagonal pass from the left by Vokkaliga Raghunath. I would rate that goal as my best till date,” he says bubbling with excitement.

Akashdeep, who hails from Vairowal village in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, endured a major career setback last year when he sustained a serious shin injury, which led to his exclusion from the national side for the 9th Asia Cup – which was of crucial interest as the country’s hopes of a sealing a World Cup berth hinged on them winning the event or at least finishing runners-up.

“I was disappointed to miss the Asia Cup as we really needed to win it to qualify for the World Cup, but then you can’t control injuries – if it has to happen it will happen,” he observes.

Humble to the core, the hazel-eyed striker despite dishing out a eyeball-grabbing showing in The Hague, is determined not to let any complacency creep into his system and work as hard as ever en route to becoming an accomplished striker. “Learning never stops as I’m only 19. I have a long way to go. I think it will take me a few years to mature and I will look to improve with each game, each tourney as has been the case till now. I want to work on re-trapping and decision-making among others going forward,” he signs off.

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