Young India hockey team defender and drag-flicker Jugraj Singh is happy that a healthy rivalry is shaping up between him, Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar, which bodes well for the country as it hosts some top-notch tournament, including the FIH World Cup in Odisha early next year.
“We have some excellent drag-flickers in the team right now, Harmanpreet (Singh), Varun (Kumar) and I. We always push each other to do better and it allows us to perform variations in matches as a team, which comes in handy in tough situations, especially since hockey teams properly scout to understand each team’s drag-flick routine. So, we practice variations to make sure that oppositions struggle to read our routine,” the 25-year-old Jugraj said on Hockey India’s podcast series ‘Hockey Te Charcha’ on Saturday.
Speaking about his humble origins and the adversities he had to overcome to make it to the top, Jugraj, who was part of the second-place finishing campaign at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, said, “I started playing in Attari when I was in the third grade. I shifted to Delhi for four years soon after college to play for the Punjab National Bank hockey academy which gave me my first start. It was in the PNB team that I started playing competitive tournaments where I was spotted by the Navy Hockey team who offered me a position in their senior squad, after winning silver at the national tournament.
“After which I was eagerly waiting for that one chance to play in the senior Indian hockey team. I put in a lot of work preparing myself for that chance and I finally got selected in the senior Indian squad which was an extremely proud moment for me,” added Jugraj.
He said, “One must fight with all his willpower to achieve anything they want in life, and I did the same. I never stopped fighting and never gave up which resulted in me getting that one opportunity that I needed to prove myself.”
The 25-year-old who made his debut in the Indian team at the FIH Pro League 2021-22, explained his humble origins, the sacrifices of his father, who worked as a border coolie at Wagah Border, and how he overcame those adversities.
“We as a family did not have a lot of money; my father was the only one who used to earn when I was a kid. In my childhood, my brother and I used to go to the Wagah border to help our father out where we sold water bottles, snacks, etc. to tourists alongside him. Our financial situation was so bad at times that we had to eat the same meal every day for a week. I will be eternally grateful to my father who made so many sacrifices for us to make sure we go to school no matter what. He always encouraged me to play hockey as he realised that I had the talent.
“Overcoming those adversities as a kid really helped me grow and evolve as a person and I understood the importance of hockey and how it could transform not only my life but the lives of the people in my family. It is because of my father I recognised the value of hard work and earning things for yourself which helped me overcome financial and personal adversities and it made me a better player. Now I have everything that I wanted as a kid and it is all thanks to hockey which helped me transform my life.”