India's star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh has set a personal target of scoring in every game at the London Olympics and hopes to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Beijing Games.
"My target is to score in every match here at the 2012 Olympics. I am hoping to land on target with my penalty corner shots at crucial moments," said Sandeep ahead of India's tournament opener against the Netherlands on July 30.
Sandeep's drag-flicking prowess is one of the key components of India's game plan and he is hopeful of living up to the promise.
"I never think that I'm the best flicker, but I practice to learn new things every day," said Sandeep, who said he wants to improve his overall field play."
"I don't just want to be a drag-flicker. I want to be become a complete hockey player. If you are just a drag-flicker, you may some time be out of the team because you're not performing well," added the strapping defender from Haryana.
Incidentally, Sandeep is among the two players in the current Indian team to have previous experience of playing in the Olympics. Sandeep and Ignace Tirkey, the most seasoned player in the current squad, were part of the squad that participated in the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens.
Indian hockey's downslide after Athens saw them finish 11th in the 2006 World Cup and then for the first time in the history of the game the eight-time Olympic champions failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games. The inability to qualify for the Beijing Olympics was a big setback to the country's national game, and Sandeep said Indian hockey would have suffered a serious blow had the team not qualified for the London Games.
"If we didn't qualify this time, Indian hockey could have become a dinosaur," Sandeep said. He said the Indian team was aware of the challenge confronting them on the return to the Olympics. India are placed in Group B of the men's hockey competition.
Defending champions Germany and the Netherlands are the most formidable opponents India are going to confront in the pool matches.
The other teams in India's group are New Zealand, South Korea and Belgium, who all have shown their ability to break through the Indian defenses. Sandeep says coming back to play in the Olympic Games is like a dream after he got accidentally shot in the back in 2006, just before the Indian team's departure to play in the World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
Recalling that incident when he was travelling on the train to New Delhi to join the Indian squad before departing for Germany, Sandeep had to be rushed to the hospital when a stray bullet from a policeman's gun hit him.
"Looking back at that incident, playing hockey again is like a dream-come-true," said Sandeep.
"I spent eight to none hours in the hospital as they checked what damage the bullet had caused," he recalled.
"After that the doctor said I could not walk, couldn't play any more hockey. It was a very difficult time for me. When I think about those days, I feel that was the worst time of my life but I learned a lot of thing," he said.
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