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Azlan Shah Cup 2011 News
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Jugraj Interview: "Its all Rupinder's own hardwork" (5/13/2011)
--s2h Team
When Jugraj Singh suffered his near-fatal crash in 2003, he was the brightest star in Indian hockey’s horizon, already a proven match-winner and a braveheart whose aggression on field helped lift the team several notches. Today at 29, he is coach with the Indian team -- the youngest to get the responsibility – and passing on tips to the youngsters about many of the current players from across the world whom he once played against.

How does it feel to be a coach at 29, when most of your contemporaries are still playing?
It does feel bad at times, I can’t deny that. Indian hockey was going through a golden run at that time when I suffered the injury and if I was still playing, maybe things would have been very different, both for the team and for me. At times, the desire to again pick up a stick and go in and play does become very strong, especially when the team is under pressure. But then, what has happened has happened, it can’t be changed. I am happy that I am at least still with the Indian team, helping them in whatever way I can. If not on field, at least I am contributing something to the sport and Indian hockey off it. I am still giving something to Indian hockey, which is what ultimately matters.

Does it help that you have a different outlook and maybe more inputs on players from other sides, since you yourself played against many of them?
Yes, it does. It is one thing to watch videos and analyse a player’s game, and completely different to actually play against him in match situation. In that sense, I can bring a different approach to the opposition. As a defender, I played against the likes of Jamie Dwyer so I can say I know something about his game and thought process on field. As a rusher, I took on Sohail Abbas, so I can give my personal inputs to how he may go about during penalty corners. As a drag-flicker I scored a decent number of goals so I can help the current crop of flickers on the variations they may need to be successful. So yes, having played against many of these guys has its advantages.

Playing for India, you were the livewire on field and always aggressive. How important is that for a player and where do you see this Indian team in that respect?
I was aggressive because you cannot be too laid back. It often makes you take risks and do things you won’t normally do on field and that can help the team. But you have to be calm as well otherwise things may go against you. Being aggressive is a state of mind that does not care about the opposition’s reputation, not about getting violent on field. As for this team, I will not venture too much. They have the passion and desire to play well for the country. When we started, we also made mistakes and sometimes paid the price for being too overtly aggressive. But you tend to mature with time and age and then things fall into perspective. As I said, it is about the killer instinct, the wish to win at any cost, without that you cannot do anything. It’s there and hopefully it will only get better with the current players as they play more tough games in pressure situations.

Rupinder Pal Singh has made considerable progress as a defender and a drag-flicker. How much credit goes to you for that? Do you see him as a successor to your legacy?
None. It’s all his hard work, his desire to learn and excel, his ability to absorb as much as he can. It won’t be fair for me take any credit for his hard work. I am only a means to help him realize his potential and if I manage to do so, I will be happy. I can help him with giving tips and suggestions, correct some actions, help him develop as a player. Rest is all his hard work. When I had the accident, drag-flick had just come into Indian consciousness as an effective means of scoring goals. After that, we have tried many youngsters in that role with varied success. I don’t think I was the best, I was perhaps still on way to becoming one of the best. If he manages to do what I wanted to – win major games and tournaments for the country – I would have done my bit.

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