Q. How does it feel winning the Padma Shri?
It’s an honour to win such an award – I have won the Arjuna Award in 2012 – such awards are a big motivation to strive hard and keep improving my game and reap laurels for my country.
Q. You have had made many sacrifices to reach where you are today. Does this award give you the feeling that all your sacrifices are yielding results?
If you want it to make it to the top, you must be prepared to make sacrifices. Staying away from home for most part of the year is a routine thing for me. If I remember correctly, I spent around 50 days with my parents last year as hockey commitments kept me busy. I constantly look to improve and as Sachin paaji once said ‘never be satisfied with what you have achieved’. I believe the moment one gets satisfied with his achievements, that is the start of the end for a player.
Q. Indian team had a superb 2014 winning the Asiad gold, bagged a silver medal in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Test series win over Australia in Australia, followed by a semifinal finish in the Champions Trophy. Where does the national team go from here?
The team have a lot of youngsters who have hold their own in crunch games. There is a lot of self-belief in this team backed by consistency. Our preparations for the Olympics are looking good and going forward exposure trips to Europe will make it even better.
Q. Jamie Dwyer has said that the induction of the Hero Hockey India League has done a world of good to Indian hockey. Your thoughts.
If you look at our performance over the last twelve months, you will notice that the team is playing as a unit. We have performed well against top teams and even beat the big three – Germany, Australia and Netherlands besides Belgium. The boys need to keep working hard and results will come.
Q. The 2015 Hero Hockey India League is into its third edition. How do you assess the third edition?
I believe all six teams were well balanced and I expect all matches to be close. Our boys had a pretty hectic 2014 and are looking fresh playing the league after a break of about a month. I think the league is going to augment the supply line for the national team as no youngster can get a better platform than HIL to showcase their skills and attract the selectors’ attention.
Q. Pakistan players are not part of the Hero Hockey India League. Do you think they should be allowed to take part?
As a player I think if they have good players who can bring value to the league, they should play in the HIL. However, I respect whatever policies concerned authorities have regarding allowing Pakistan players to play in the league.
Q. There is so much of competition in the side with so many youngsters flowing through the ranks. How crucial is it to maintain top form and stay injury-free?
Its’ very important to keep performing and stay away from injuries. There is cut-throat competition in the side and staying focused is so crucial. As for me even though I have played more than 200 internationals I don’t take things for granted.
Q. You got engaged to England junior hockey player Ashpal Kaur last year. Any plans to get hitched this year?
For now, hockey is my focus. Let me see how things go as I’m not thinking of marriage at least for now.