Gurjant Singh was introduced to hockey by his cousin brother who lived in Batala, about 41 kms from Gurjant’s birthplace Amritsar in Punjab. “No one used to play hockey in my village. It was when I saw my cousins play in Batala that I got drawn to the game I love so much,” exclaims the FIH Junior Men’s World Cup hero.
Soon Gurjant saw himself shift to the Chandigarh Hockey Academy where he honed his skills. His impressive feats in the domestic circuit ensured he was picked in the Junior India core group that trained in SAI, Bengaluru for the 2016 FIH Junior Men’s World Cup. According to Gurjant, this moment was the steppingstone he was vying for. “After winning a lot of tournaments for Punjab and Haryana, I was selected in the Indian Junior Hockey Team for the U-21 6 Nations Tour, Netherlands in 2015. I was also part of the team that played the Australian Hockey League following which I was selected to play for India in the Junior World Cup in Lucknow.”
Since his early days when he was coming up the ranks in the Junior Nationals circuit, Gurjant is known as a big game player because of his knack to make telling contributions on the big occasion. He solidified this reputation as he opened the scoring for India in the Semi Final and Final of the 2016 FIH Junior Men’s World Cup. “I will never forget 18 December 2016. That is the day we won the Junior World Cup title and so far, it’s been the greatest feat in my career. It was after this great win that people started noticing me,” says Gurjant.
Gurjant’s first outing for the Senior squad was in 2017 against Belgium. Later that year, he also played at the Hero Asia Cup in Dhaka which India won. However, Gurjant’s dream debut was followed by a slight slump in form which saw him sit out of the team for 2018 Commonwealth Games as well as the Asian Games that year. He was also dropped from the FIH Men’s World Cup squad due to injury. “Though I was picked for the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat where I scored 4-5 goals, it was not until 2020 that I started proving my mettle in the squad. The goal I scored against the Netherlands in the FIH Hockey Pro League happened to the quickest goal for India and was also voted as the second-best FIH Hockey Pro League goal of 2020 by fans,” Gurjant states.
Gurjant also utilized the time in Camp when there were no tours due to the pandemic in 2020 by working on his skills not just as a forward but also paid great attention to improve his defence. “One of the key areas Chief Coach Graham Reid expected me to work on was my defence. He insists that good defence begins with the forwards and I really paid a lot of attention to improve my off-ball skills over the past year,” adds the young striker with 47 international caps.
Now part of the 16-member Olympic-bound Indian Men’s Hockey Team, Gurjant wants to make the most of the opportunity. “The team is focused on just one target and that is to finish on the podium. The recent experience of playing against Germany, Great Britain and Argentina is definitely going to help us when we compete against them at the Olympics.”
“I have missed the Asian Games and World Cup due to injuries. I had to sit back and follow the team from home and that was really painful. But I am hopeful I will make this opportunity count in Tokyo, and we are all set for the challenge,” Gurjant concludes.