New Delhi, Jan 2: Indian young striker Mandeep Singh has revealed how playing in the Hockey India League (HIL) has helped several young players pick up the English language, which also helped them erase the communication gap in international matches.
With constant communication with foreign players in Coal India HIL, Mandeep said on Monday that he and most of his teammates from the junior squad are confident of speaking in English -- be it with fans abroad, foreign coaches or umpires.
"This has helped us a lot because earlier, we couldn't communicate to the international umpires why we think it's a penalty corner and asking for a video referral. We had to rely on someone who knew English in the team or explain to our captain. But regular meetings with foreign players during HIL has helped us improve our language," he said in a release.
"Initially, I could only follow the signals they (foreign players) would give while playing but from the second HIL onwards, things got better, thanks to the numerous team meetings we had where it was insisted that we express ourselves in English. This helped us get over our fear of speaking in a language that is uncommon in the region we come from," he added.
For Mandeep, who hails from Mithapur in Jalandhar, playing in HIL meant that he had to overcome his inhibitions of speaking in English.
"I remember in my first HIL stint I had to share a room with foreign player Floris Evers from the Netherlands. The fact that I could barely manage broken English made things difficult for us," he admitted, recalling an incident during the 2013 edition of the League when he played for inaugural champions, now-disbanded Ranchi Rhinos.
"Floris had asked me to set the alarm for 7.30 am as we were supposed to take the flight that morning from Lucknow to Ranchi for our next game. But obviously, I didn't understand and I thought he meant that he would set the alarm and wake me up.
"In this confusion, both of us slept through the morning while the entire team bus waited for us wondering why we hadn't come down from our room yet," the 21-year-old recalled candidly.
It also helps that the foreign players like to spend time with Indian players during HIL and often engage in healthy banter and indulge in a few rounds of Playstation games.
Mandeep explained, "Manpreet Singh (from the senior team) and I like games on Playstation. This funny incident happened in 2013 when Floris (Dutch) and Bosco Perez- Pla (from Spain) joined us. The bet was that whoever lost had to have a cold water bath in whatever clothes we were wearing and Manpreet and I lost.
"We got drenched in cold water even as we burst into loud laughter. I think instances like these would help break the ice with foreign players and reduce the language barrier."
Such experiences from Coal India HIL have not only brought about a feel-good factor among Indian and foreign players but it has also helped improve their communication with men's team chief coach Roelant Oltmans as they understand his commands better and faster.
"At the Junior World Cup matches, there were times when we were down by a goal or two at half-time. In those ten minutes of break Coach Oltmans would come up with a few different tactics that we had to implement in the second half," Mandeep, who was part of the 2016 Junior World Cup-winning squad, said.
"Of course, he would use the drawing board to explain too but if we had language issues, it would be hard to comprehend in so little time. But I think the past experiences at HIL where almost all of us have played helped," insisted Mandeep who will turn up for Delhi Waveriders this season.
He will be joined at Waveriders by junior team captain Harjeet Singh, Santa Singh and Parvinder Singh from the 2016 World Cup winning squad.