They are the two silent guys in the Indian hockey team that has qualified for the quarter-final of the Rio Olympics. So much so that one has to go after the two 23-year-old’s. But once on the field, the two Manipuri boys impress all with their pedigree and determination. Chinglensana Singh and Kothajit Singh have played a stellar role in ensuring India clinch the quarter-finals.
It is worth mentioning here that Manipur which once produced great goalscorers like Thoiba Singh and Tikken in the past have hardly produced a quality player in the recent past. But then all that has changed with the arrival of Chinglensana and Kothajit. What is to be remembered here is that both Chinglensana and Kothajit have represented the country in 122 and 133 international matches, respectively.
Till Friday evening (when India played a draw against Canada), both Chinglensana and Kothajit had outshone the more talked about players with bigger reputation like Sardara Singh and Rupinder with their exploits on the field. “I must say I am quite amazed at the way in which both Chinglensana and Kothajit have performed in Rio so far. They have outshone the more established stars in the current team. Their stellar show has come as a big surprise to all the hockey lovers,” said a former India player.
The most important and heartening part of the Manipuri duo’s contribution to Team India is their one hundred percent commitment. As former great Ajit Pal Singh said,"What impresses me most about them is the quiet and unassuming manner in which they go about their job. One can hardly even notice their presence. They are very committed and always ensure that they give their very best to the team,” said Pal, a member of the 1975 World Cup winning team.
When asked what was the hallmark of the both Chinglensana and Kothajit, Aslam Sher Khan, a veteran, said they were quite fast. “I think their biggest asset is their speed. One minute they are defending and the very next minute they are deep into the opponent’s territory attacking. I think its this allround ability to attack as well as defend which makes them so good,” said Sher Khan.
It is worth mentioning here that Kothajit has scored twice for India in two key encounters.The first time he scored the equalised in the 2014 Asian Games final against Pakistan. India went on to win and secured their berth in the Olympics as a result of that win. On Tuesday against Argentina, he came up with a peach of a goal—which helped India beat their bogey team in Olympics after a long time and as a result qualify for the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, India captain P. Sreejesh was confident about team’s chances against Belgium in the quarter-final on Sunday.
“We cannot say that they are ranked below us so they are an easy side to beat. Going by statistics, Belgium has won four matches in their pool and have lost only one. So it is a tough team to beat but I think it’s all about how we cope with pressure on that day and that will be the key point,” stressed the 28-year-old skipper.
He was, however, quick to admit that the mood in the Indian team camp was upbeat and the men are excited to be part of the quarter final line-up. “The team is confident and very excited to play the quarter finals. The way we have performed with consistency has given the team the motivation and self-belief to win. We need to give our 100% on that day (Sunday) and that’s what we aim to do,” he stated.
On being inquired about his deputy S.V. Sunil’s injury-scare, which he sustained during the match against Canada, Sreejesh said that there is no need to panic. “He is getting better. He had some pain in his wrist and there was some inflammation soon after the fall. But the scan did not show anything which means he is fit to play the Sunday’s must win match,” he said.