India's experienced defender and drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh is not only excited, but also feels a sense of relief as he returns to the squad. The Indian men's hockey team on Thursday arrived in Buenos Aires to take on Olympic champions Argentina in the upcoming FIH Pro League matches on April 11 and 12.
Rupinder, who is on his first overseas tour since 2019 when India travelled to Belgium, feels "super excited" to face the Olympic Champions.
While he was part of India's FIH Hockey Pro League matches in Bhubaneswar, Rupinder missed out on India's tour to Europe in February this year due to injury.
"I am super excited to play against the Olympic Champions. It's been a very long break from competitive hockey. My last overseas tour was in September 2019 when we played in Antwerp, Belgium," Rupinder said in a Hockey India release.
"It was unfortunate that I missed India's previous tour to Europe. I had worked really hard and was looking forward to playing against Germany and Great Britain, but I injured my hamstring one week before the team left. It was very disappointing for me personally," he added.
During the FIH Hockey Pro League matches last year, Rupinder contributed to the team's campaign with a total of five goals from six FIH Hockey Pro League matches played in early 2020. During the current tour of Argentina, Rupinder will be vying to find his old form.
"I was in good nick last year. Now against Argentina, it will be all about finding that rhythm back. It is important to play simple hockey, as chief coach Graham Reid always says and not do anything too dramatic. Focus will be on basic skills, strong defence, good on-field communication and coordination with each other," Rupinder explained.
On asked about playing in a bio-bubble and travelling in these circumstances with the ongoing fight against the pandemic, Rupinder said, "We are very used to being in a bio-bubble and understand the protocols very well. As for the travel, we are very grateful to Hockey India and Sports Authority of India for planning the journey in such a way that we don't feel any strain."
"We were all provided with rooms in the airport in Paris where we had a 13-hour layover. This particularly helped us rest and recover. In the airports too, we were very careful about social distancing and always have our masks on. These measures are necessary to ensure our safety and now we are just waiting to get on with the matches."
India will play their first practice match against Argentina on Tuesday. The Indian team is scheduled to play six matches during the 16-day tour including back-to-back FIH Hockey Pro league matches on April 11 and 12.
( With inputs from ANI )
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