Back wall gets taller

Sports

Effectiveness personified, he chased every loose ball down and swiftly dealt with them. His long reach came to his aide, allowing him to make clean tackles on the opposition strikers and in keeping them at bay. At 6'4", Rupinderpal Singh easily stands out with his imposing physique. But he stood out even more so due his reassuring gift of soaking up the pressure and undertaking plenty of responsibility.

While foreign players and Indians such as VR Raghunath and Mandeep Singh dominated the headlines throughout the month-long Hockey India League (HIL), young Rupinderpal silently went about his job. And quite efficiently at that. The 21-year old from Faridkot was easily among the best Indian players in the HIL, producing solid performances at the back for his team, the Delhi Waveriders, and taking considerable workload off his skipper and mentor Sardar Singh. The seven goals he scored from penalty corners only added to his reputation.

"He has been the biggest positive as far as the performance of Indian players is concerned. He played intelligently and looked mature enough to deal with the responsibility handed to him," observes former India captain Pargat Singh.

Since making his debut at the 2011 Azlan Shah Cup, there was a growing concern that Rupinderpal's promising career was heading nowhere. His performances weren't improving, as he struggled to maintain fitness and was subsequently dropped from the squad for the Olympics last year. Another talent wasted, many thought.

But Rupinderpal wouldn't give up so easily. At a time when his career was at a crossroads, he turned to Sardar for help. During the national camp in Patiala ahead of the Champions Trophy last year, Rupinderpal and Sardar put in extra hours to get the former in shape. Every day after the team practice concluded, the duo stayed back on the pitch for an hour, working on the finer aspects of the game such as back-hits and scoops to make long, quick clearances.

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