Indian junior men's hockey team defender Mandeep Mor on Monday said he draws inspiration from former skipper Sandeep Singh while crediting experienced drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh for teaching him the nuances of the sport.
Mor, who captained the team at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year, was part of the Chandigarh Hockey Academy which was home to several top players including Sandeep and Rupinder.
"I used to be thrilled to meet Sandeep bhai in the Chandigarh Stadium. He is my hero, my biggest inspiration and I loved the way he scored through drag-flicks. He would come to use the gym and train there. His words 'focus on your drag-flicks, work hard and you will find glory' continues to motivate me," Mor said.
"Gurjinder bhai and Bob paaji (Rupinder) would help me a lot and teach me basics and always motivated me to do well. I even got to train with Bob paaji which was a great high for me back in those days," he added.
Mor said his coach identified him as having the potential to become a good drag-flicker.
"When I joined the Chandigarh Academy, my coach Alpinder Singh told me I have the potential to become a good dragflicker and he helped me hone my skills."
Selected to train in Sports Authority of India, Sonipat, in 2014 after notable performances in U-14 and U-17 national championships, Mor made quick strides and received a call-up for the junior national camp in 2017.
The following year, Mor also got to debut for the senior national team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and was also part of the senior core probable for the 2018 men's World Cup.
"When I got to play in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, I was under pressure because it was my first tournament with the senior team which also had Sardar Singh. But he was very reassuring and told me to focus on my basics and not to feel burdened by the pressure of playing for India on a big stage."
The experience definitely helped me a lot and I will continue to work hard to earn senior team jersey again," he said.
Mor is eagerly awaiting the resumption of coaching camp after being away from the game since March.
With the junior national coaching camp ending in March, Mor is forced to do some basic workouts in his hometown.
"During the lockdown it was very difficult and I could not train at all but now we are able to come out of home and do some basic core workouts. Since the senior team was also training in SAI, Bengaluru, I would often chat-up with Harmanpreet and Varun who would give me some tips on dragflick," he said
"Chris Ciriello also watches us train and he has helped me pay more attention on my footwork among other basics. I hope we can return to camp soon," Mor said.
Coming from a family that was far too familiar with hockey, Mor's first choice was surprisingly not hockey but boxing.
"Though my cousin brother Pardeep Mor played for the Indian Team, and my uncles had also played hockey at the national level, to my family's surprise I preferred to pursue boxing," expressed Mor.
Born in Narwana, a small hamlet in Haryana's Jind district, Mor's association with hockey began when he went to watch his brother train.
"When I watched Pardeep practice, and saw other kids playing hockey, I thought it was a fun sport and decided to take the plunge," he said.