Indian hockey is back to top, feels British star Jackson

New Delhi: Britain’s hockey star Ashley Jackson reckons that the new crop of Indian players can be lethal in the international stage and the recent success has only added to their confidence.

“I think it’s safe to say with the senior team’s performances over the past four years and the junior team now becoming World Champions under the leadership of coach Harendra Singh, Indian hockey is back to the top of the table once again,” the drag-flicker said in a release on Sunday.

“I have spent four-five years playing (in the Hockey India League) alongside Manpreet (Singh), Biru (Birendra Lakra) and Kothajit (Singh) who have all grown as players each year,” the Ranchi Rays captain added.

“It’s also fun to see how some of the younger guys like Mandeep (Singh) and Simranjeet (Singh) are getting on with their game.”

The 29-year-old has been one of the most successful players in the HIL, winning the coveted title twice — first with now-defunct Ranchi Rhinos in 2013 and later with Ranchi Rays in 2015. This year too he is optimistic his team will set its sights high.

“I think our expectations are always high because of what we achieved in the past, even last season we had a very successful league (phase) campaign, finishing first by (a difference of) eight points but came up short in the semi-finals on shoot-outs,” Jackson said.

“We will set our sights high for this season as I’m sure everyone else will, if we are playing with smiles on our faces then that doesn’t look good for all the other teams. We have a great group in Ranchi Rays, so it’s always fun,” he added.

Jackson, who will join his team Ranchi Rays for the week-long camp in Mumbai, is also an ardent fan of cricket and former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who co-owns the eastern city-based hockey franchise.

“M.S. Dhoni is a pioneer of the modern game as we know it today, the first of the modern era of cricket, really taking a shot, making it to the next level where it is less about text book technique that they once taught us for hours and hours back home,” the Young Player of the Year 2009 said.

“Dhoni is someone who gets the job done, no matter how it looks and entertaining along the way. Having said that, I’m a conventional cricketer from back home so I’d settle down to watch Joe Root bat the first three days of a Test match any day,” Jackson, who has played nearly 200 international games admitted.