It was sheer pleasure to witness his precision power on the field. His ability to convert penalty corners into goals with perfection made Jugraj Singh the blue-eyed boy of Indian Hockey. Indians celebrated his arrival as they found a flicker in him after a long wait and was touted then as the next big thing. However, as fate had it, the celebrations were cut short when he met with a terrible car accident at Dakoha near Jalandhar. Since then, he has never been able to make a successful comeback.
However, he continues to serve the country’s hockey team, in a different role though. The 28-year-old is currently designated as the penalty corner coach to oversee the current bunch of flickers.
A self-taught penalty-corner specialist, Jugraj opened up about his views on Indian drag-flickers, hockey and much more to Zeenews.com’s NishadVellur.
What do you think about the current performance of the Indian team in the ongoing hockey Olympic qualifiers? Do you think India can gain back the past glory and popularity?
As one can see, the Indian team is doing a wonderful job at the moment. The boys are doing a good job and most importantly, there is unity in the team. They are performing as a team, which I am sure will bring us good results. It is a good sign for Indian hockey and if we continue to go down this road, we can definitely bring back the past glory.
How do the Indian drag-flickers compare with others in the Olympics?
We have world class drag-flickers in the team. I can proudly say that they are the best in the world, which any team would like to have. Sandeep Singh is the main flicker for us and fortunately he is seizing all the opportunities he gets to score goals. Raghunath and Ravinder Pal Singh are equally important to India but they are not getting a lot of chances right now as Sandeep is on a roll.
Regarding rating, as of now, I would give them 9 out of 10.
What steps have you implemented after taking charge? Can you see the results?
Definitely, we can see the results. India’s penalty conversion rate has improved by 70 percent. When I was given the job two and half years back, I saw a shaky Sandeep with a low confidence level. He has worked really hard to bring things back on track. And there is Rupinder Pal Singh also. He is a wonderful chap and a keen learner. A hard worker. He is working on his variations well and we have a bright future in him.
Where do you think the Indian team are headed under coach Michael Nobbs? How do you rate him as a coach?
I am in no position to rate Michael Nobbs. He is a great inspiration, a wonderful individual and really good with his approach to the team. The way the boys are playing is a testimony. He promotes youngsters and has great faith in them. He blends the talent of youth and experienced ones in the scheme of things. This is exactly what India needed. I would give him 10 out of 10. In fact, if I could, I would have rated him way beyond that, considering his impact on the boys and the work culture he has brought in to the team.
So far it has been a cakewalk for Team India in the tournament barring the close match against Canada. Based on their performance can you pinpoint the team’s weaknesses and the areas which need improvement?
Winning depends on luck, a lot. There aren’t any glaring mistakes with the team’s performance right now. However, there are minor points to be looked upon, which we are already working on. There were problems with our finishing and we have to cut down wrong passes. Otherwise everything else is on the right track as planned.
For how long do you see yourself in the team as a Penalty Corner coach?
It all depends on the chief coach and Hockey India. And most importantly, the results.