We've strong chance to finish on podium in Junior World Cup: Araijeet

We've strong chance to finish on podium in Junior World Cup: Araijeet

Bengaluru, Nov 18 (PTI) Rising forward Araijeet Singh Hundal, named vice-captain of the Indian team for the upcoming Junior World Cup, is living his father's dream and is determined to make a mark by helping the country finish on the podium in the Kuala Lumpur showpiece from December 5-16.

Growing up in a family where hockey was a tradition, the Amritsar-born forward made his debut for India at the 2021 Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar where he scored five goals in six games and has not looked back since then.

'Everyone in my family played hockey, including my grandfather, father, and uncles. My father used to go to games, and as a kid, I would accompany him,' the 19-year-old told Hockey India.

'From then on, my interest grew. My father had a dream to represent India, and now I am carrying forward this dream for him,' added Araijeet, who has scored 17 goals in 22 appearances so far.

Araijeet is among the seven players in the 18-member squad who represented India at the 2021 Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar. The other six members are skipper Uttam Singh, Boby Singh Dhami, Sudeep Chirmako, Vishnukant Singh, Sunil JoJo, and Sharda Nand Tiwari.

India went down 1-3 against France in the classification playoff to finish fourth in the tournament.

'We have prepared well as a team at the camp and have focused on several key areas of our game. We are working on important technical areas where we can improve and our aim is to finish with a medal,' Araijeet said.

He further said they have learned a lot over the past couple of years, and the team is feeling confident ahead of the upcoming tournament.

'Since the previous Junior World Cup, we have learned that we should not take any team lightly and we must give 100 per cent against all teams. We have to keep pushing ourselves till the final whistle.

'We have played 3-4 major tournaments which have really given a boost to our confidence. We have also seen how other teams play and about the slight adjustments and tweaks that we can make in our game to improve our chances in a match,' he said.

The Indian colts forward further said winning the Junior Men's Asia Cup beating Pakistan 2-1 has been his career highlight so far.

'I have had several highlights during my career in such a short time. But winning the junior men's Asia Cup trophy, beating Pakistan in a close game has been the best moment of my career. I also scored a crucial goal in the match,' he recalled.

'Ready to roar' =========== India are placed in Pool C alongside Canada, Korea and Spain, and will begin their campaign against Korea on December 5.

Defending champions Argentina along with Australia, Chile, and Malaysia form Pool A.

Egypt, France, Germany, and South Africa have been placed in Pool B, while Belgium, New Zealand, Pakistan and the Netherlands have been grouped in Pool D in the 16-team tournament.

'Now we hope to repeat a similar performance in Kuala Lumpur. We will look to minimise our errors and capitalise on our strengths in the tournament.

'Our fitness levels have also improved and we have grown a lot as a team. We are all ready to roar and make the nation proud by winning a medal at the Junior World Cup,' Araijeet said.

Having begun hockey around eight years ago in 2016, he received a chance to play his first Junior Nationals for Punjab & Sind Bank.

After a string of consistent performances for his side, Araijeet received a call for the Junior men's national camp in 2019, but the pandemic disrupted his dream of representing India for a year.

'During the lockdown, our coaches shared programmes so that we can continue to train and maintain our fitness at home,' he remembered.

In 2021, Araijeet finally made his debut for the India at the Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

He also competed in the senior Nationals at the domestic level in 2021 and 2022, and he is also pursuing his studies. PTI SSC SSC TAP

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