Harmanpreet Singh Hits 200-Cap Milestone, But India’s Hockey Team Seeks Backup Firepower

"Phenomenal Striker, Harmanpreet's Scoring Record Crucial for Paris Olympics, but Questions Linger on Team's Depth"

In a clash against the Netherlands during the FIH Pro League match in Bhubaneswar, Dutch head coach Jeroen Delmee and India’s Hardik Singh found common ground – Harmanpreet Singh is a force to be reckoned with. Delmee emphasized the need to avoid conceding penalty corners to keep India at bay, while Hardik Singh expressed confidence that a penalty corner could turn the tide – a prediction that came true with Harmanpreet’s rocket to equalize at 2-2 against the world No.1 side.

The Kalinga Stadium witnessed a weekend to remember as the Indian captain marked his 200th senior appearance with a game-saving goal against the Dutch, following a brace against Spain. Harmanpreet, expressing his pride, shared on social media, “It’s always a privilege to wear the Indian jersey, and whenever I wear this, it feels like I’m wearing it for the first time.”

Rupinder Pal Singh, a star drag-flicker himself, expressed admiration for Harmanpreet’s consistency and dedication. “I am a fan of Harmanpreet, the way he has remained consistent and how he is there for the team every match 100 percent,” Rupinder told The Indian Express.

With the Paris Olympics on the horizon, Harmanpreet’s impressive form bodes well for India. Siddharth Pandey, hockey commentator and FIH Level 2 certified coach, hailed Harmanpreet’s “phenomenal record” of over 170 goals in 200 matches. Pandey noted that his skills were evident from his early years, with Harendra Singh playing a significant role in his development.

Harmanpreet’s two drag-flick goals over the weekend showcased the variety he brings to the table, with both technique and self-confidence setting him apart. Rupinder highlighted not only his superb variety in drag-flicks but also his quick ball trapping, saving crucial milliseconds and outsmarting the defense.

While India celebrates Harmanpreet’s milestone, concerns loom over the team’s dependence on him as the top scorer. In 2023, he scored 42 goals from 33 matches, with a considerable gap to the second-highest scorer, Mandeep Singh (18 in 31). Siddharth Pandey raised a red flag, stating, “We are very dependent on Harmanpreet, yes, and that was exposed at the World Cup.”

Reflecting on the Tokyo Olympics, Rupinder emphasized the importance of having two high-quality flickers in the squad. The lack of a second world-class flicker is a worrisome gap that needs addressing for India’s quest for another Olympic medal.

As Harmanpreet Singh shines in his 200th game, India’s hockey team faces the crucial task of building depth and finding a reliable backup to ensure a balanced and formidable force in the upcoming Paris Olympics.

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