The Indian senior men’s hockey team enjoys the luxury of having a slew of top-quality drag-flickers over the years. Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Varun Kumar as well as the recently-retired Rupinder Pal Singh represent a redoubtable drag-flicking unit. Now that potent drag-flick unit could see new members joining in the near future. Araijeet Singh Hundal with his power-packed performances in the 12th Junior Men’s World Cup has shown that he can be an exciting prospect for the national senior team.
Interestingly, Araijeet who turned 17 a few days before heading into the 12th Junior Men’s World Cup, could not showcase his prodigious talents in India’s opening match against France. And what was a must-win game for India after their first match against France, Araijeet came to the party in the 13-1 win over Canada slamming an eye-catching hat-trick in a span of eleven minutes, scoring the team’s seventh, ninth and tenth goals. His booming drag-flicks caught the attention of all and sundry – he maintained his rich vein of form racking up a brace in the final league match against Poland which they won 8-2.
Hockey runs in the Amritsar lad’s blood. “His family is deeply into hockey – his father Kuljeet Singh used to play for Railways and was part of the national camp in 1999. He used to be in class IV when he joined our academy and was with us till class IX,” says former Olympian Balwinder Singh Shammi, under whose tutelage Araijeet honed his hockey skills at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Academy in Amritsar.
It’s not always that we see an international forward having robust drag-flicking skills – Belgium’s Tom Boon readily comes to mind after the 6-foot-3-inch tall Indian forward. “Forwards are known to be good hitters and have good scooping skills. I’m sure Araijeet will be equally effective with field goals as well as short corner goals,” quips Balwinder, who played for India at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Balwinder, who had represented India from 1983 to 1990, was categorical that Araijeet can do well to be away from the spotlight. “In India, we put a player on a high pedestal after one game or tournament and take no time in making him a villain if he is not performing in another match or tourney. Araijeet should keep working hard and not get carried away by the sudden public adulation as there are too many distractions at play,” he puts his perspective.
Balwinder talks about the improvement areas Araijeet needs to focus on. “He is cool as a cucumber and has a shrewd hockey brain. I want him to bend more while playing and I’m sure he will go places,” says the chief coach of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Academy.
One hopes that Araijeet will emerge as a great asset for Indian hockey.