‘To win a World Cup is a dream’: Harmanpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh ahead of 23’ Hockey WC

— Subhayan Chakraborty

The 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup is set to take place in Odisha, India, with games being hosted at Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. The showpiece event will see the world’s best hockey teams come together to compete in a bid to become the world champions.

Matches will be held at the newly constructed Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela and the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar, which has played host to many memorable moments in hockey history.

As the teams prepare to take to the field, fans are already anticipating an exciting and competitive tournament. Ahead of the Hockey World Cup, India captain Harmanpreet Singh and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh spoke about the preparation and the importance of the World Cup, in a special episode of Backstage with Boria, Season 4.

India is expected to be a strong contender at the 2023 Hockey World Cup, particularly given their impressive performance at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo where they earned a bronze medal after a 41-year absence from the podium.

“It is a huge occasion. We don’t know when the World Cup will be back on Indian soil and this is a massive opportunity. Each one of us are aware of the significance of the occasion and we have prepared accordingly. As captain it means a lot to me to be able to lead the team in front of our fans. But you know what, we need to prepare differently as well. For example there will be a lot of noise in the ground when we play. So when I shout out instructions or when Sree bhai (PR Sreejesh) shouts instructions it could well be the players upfront don’t hear them. We have been talking about such things and planning for every possible issue that can come up. We don’t want to leave anything to chance and like you said there will not be an occasion as big as this in the future,” Harmanpreet Singh told Boria Majumdar in an episode of Backstage with Boria, Season 4.

India has been placed in Pool D at the 2023 Hockey Men’s World Cup, where they will face off against England, Spain, and Wales. While these teams are expected to provide tough competition, India is familiar with all three, having faced them in 2022. The World Cup is sure to be an exciting and challenging event for India as they aim to make a strong showing and potentially earn a spot on the podium.

The Indian national team toured Australia for a five-match series to gear up for the World Cup. Although Australia won four of the matches, India achieved a significant victory by winning 4-3 against the top-ranked team in Australia while showing immense grit and determination during the course of the series.

“Let me tell you something. When you play against teams like Australia you learn a lot. They are one of the best sides and if you stay competitive against them you get the self belief you can do it. CWG was a bad memory and each of the players wanted to redeem themselves and it was an opportunity. We all wanted to fight as a team and show ourselves that we are good enough. That’s what happened in most games and though we lost the series we fought all through. We created opportunities and that’s what is the biggest positive from the series,” iconic goalkeeper Sreejesh said in the episode.

The Odisha government, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has already announced that it will hand out a cash prize of Rs 1 crore to each player of the Indian hockey team if they win the World Cup. The marquee tournament is set to start on January 13 in the state of Odisha, and the government hopes that this financial incentive will boost the team’s competitive spirit.

“It will be the moment of our lives. To win a world cup medal for our country on home soil is a dream each one of us have lived and are living. And I can tell you we will give it everything we have to ensure we fulfil this dream. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we will not let it go. If Tokyo was a turning point in our lives, this could be even bigger,” team skipper Harmanpreet concluded.

While India has registered its only World Cup triumph back in 1975, they are pipped against England, Spain and Wales in Group D this time around. The hosts will open their campaign against Spain on January 13 in Rourkela.

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