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Updated March 17th, 2024 at 14:30 IST

Huge difference between playing hockey at the junior and senior level: Araijeet Hundal

Young Indian forward Araijeet Singh Hundal believes there is a vast difference between playing hockey at the junior and senior level, and that the experienced players in the side had played a big role in making his transition seamless.

Araijeet Singh Hundal
Araijeet Singh Hundal | Image:Hockey India

 Young Indian forward Araijeet Singh Hundal believes there is a vast difference between playing hockey at the junior and senior level, and that the experienced players in the side had played a big role in making his transition seamless.

Hundal, who is a third generation hockey player in his family -- his grandfather, father and three uncles also played the sport at the national level -- added that he will leave no stone unturned to secure a place in the Paris Olympic-bound side.

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"Senior hockey is completely different from junior hockey. I played junior hockey for three-four years and have also played two (junior) World Cups. I got a chance to play in the FIH Pro League in India against big teams like the Netherlands and Australia. We are lucky to be in the camp ahead of the Olympics at the very beginning of our senior career," Hundal told PTI Bhasha.

Hundal, who has seen several family members play hockey at the national level but never don the India jersey, wants to play in the Olympics just for them. He says there would be grand celebrations at home if he fulfils his family's dream of representing India at Paris.

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"If I could do that (represent India in Paris), there would be a festive atmosphere at our house. There will be such happiness on everyone's face that even I have never seen before. I will leave no stone unturned to make that happen," the 20-year-old Hundal, a BA student, said from Bhubaneswar.

"It is the dream of the entire family that I play in the Olympics. Grandfather used to play hockey. Papa and (his) three brothers all played hockey at the national level but no one could find a place in the India team," he said.

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The drag flicker-cum-forward is a part of the 28-member core group of probables at the national camp in Bhubaneswar. The camp is significant as the team is aiming to fine-tune its preparations ahead of Paris.

Hundal made his senior team debut during the South Africa tour this year after having netted four goals, including a hat-trick against Korea, in the Junior World Cup in Kuala Lumpur last year.

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"My father was in the national camp in 1999 but due to family reasons, he had to leave the camp midway. Now I am the last one left because no one else in the family plays hockey anymore. I am sure I will fulfil his dream and make the family proud," he added.

During the Pro League recently, Hundal scored a goal in the penalty shootout against Netherlands in Rourkela. He said that had he missed the shot, he would have regretted it for a long time.

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"The stadium was packed and I did not think that I would get a chance in the shootout. But when I got it, I thought that this is the opportunity to do something and if I miss it, I will get nothing but regrets. The senior players also explained to me not to come under pressure and to play naturally," said the youngster.

"The bonding between junior and senior players is very good. If we have any questions or are nervous, we do not hesitate to approach them (seniors). They scold us when we make mistakes on the field and also encourage us when we play well. The vibes are very positive," he added.

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"It is a good thing that the junior players are motivating the seniors to perform well and the juniors are putting in extra effort. This healthy competition is also necessary for the team. If we don't push each other, how will the team's performance graph go up? Traditionally, drag-flickers are mostly defenders, but Hundal is different.

"I have been a forward since I held a hockey stick. But once I tried a drag flick, I really enjoyed it. I took it seriously and kept learning gradually.

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"Our captain Harmanpreet is my favourite. I don't copy his style but I learn a lot from him technically.

Virat Kohli is also his favourite player and Hudnal takes a lesson or two in aggression from the star cricketer.

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"My favourite cricketer is Virat Kohli because his attitude, aggression and confidence are inspiring. There is a lot to learn from him. I watch his interviews to see how he plays and how he responds to the opposition players. His energy levels and fitness are terrific." 

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Published March 17th, 2024 at 14:30 IST

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