BENGALURU, Apr 19: The recent performance against reigning Olympic champions Argentina shows that the Indian team is in good shape going into the Tokyo Games, feels young forward Shilanand Lakra.
India won both their FIH Pro League fixtures in Argentina and two of the four practice matches, with Shilanand finishing the tour with a goal in the final practice game.
“I think we played very good hockey against Olympic Champions Argentina. Our recent performances shows that we are in good shape going into a big event like the Olympics,” he said in a release issued by Hockey India on Monday.
“Right now, though, our focus is only on the FIH Pro League games against Great Britain next month.”
Despite being one of the younger players in the Indian men’s hockey team, Shilanand held his own in Argentina, and is happy to have contributed whenever opportunities came his way.
“Having made my debut for the senior team three years ago, I’d have expected myself to play more but that is how competitive it is; there are so many amazing players in the core probables group,” he said.
“My aim has always been to earn a place in the team through consistent performances in domestic tournaments, national camps and whenever I play for India – as a starter or a substitute.”
The 21-year-old said the long break due to COVID-19 pandemic helped him and credited chief coach Graham Reid for improving his game.
“To be out of competitive action for so long…It gave me the time to re-think and analyse my performances, and also prepare for the highs and lows in the months ahead,” he said.
“I am also constantly in touch with the coaching staff, especially chief coach Graham Reid, who has helped me improve on my game immensely.”
Shilanand also hailed the contribution of Amit Rohidas and senior pro Birendra Lakra — the two other players from Odisha — who are also his teammates in the senior team.
“I think both of them have been exceptional and I get so much inspiration when I speak to them. They have always been given me sound advice,” he said.
“I turned to them whenever my morale was low over the past two years and it helps a young player like me to see two other players from Odisha make it big in Indian hockey.”
India will play Great Britain in the FIH Pro League on May 8 and 9. (PTI)