This opportunity with the Warriors also helped him share a special bond with the team coach Barry Dancer, says Armaan.
For Punjab Warriors’ Armaan Qureshi, who was a part of the team that won the Junior World Cup hockey in December, the Hockey India League has been a lot more than just a chance to play against the best.
“In many ways, I feel the league was a turning point in my career and that confidence I was able to carry right through the year which resulted in us winning the Junior World Cup,” said Armaan.
For him, the League has been all about getting stronger mentally and tactically. “In the 2014 and 2015 editions, I was part of the Delhi Waveriders. But I could not come up with significant performance,” recalls Qureshi, who hails from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.
“Most of my team mates from the junior squad had played many matches in the League and had done well for themselves. I wanted to prove myself too but the real turning point came in 2016 when I was picked for the Punjab Warriors,” he admits.
Playing alongside Punjab captain Sardar Singh, Australian great Mark Knowles, Simon Orchard and Chris Ciriello and India forward S.V. Sunil not only helped him learn to cope under pressure but it made him gain a great deal of self-belief. This opportunity with the Warriors also helped him share a special bond with the team coach Barry Dancer. “He played a crucial role in reviving my game during the last edition of the HIL. Not having played too many matches in the previous editions, I was looking for a break but it could have either gone good or bad for me. But coach Dancer ensured I stayed on top of my game, especially mentally,” Armaan says.
Dancer, a former player and coach from Australia, would have one-on-one sessions with the Warriors’ team members and this helped Armaan the most. “He helped me understand my strengths. The junior team had won the junior men’s Asia Cup and Sultan of Johor Cup just before the league, and everyone wanted to do well. But since I hadn’t got enough chances earlier, I was low on confidence,” admits Qureshi.
But Dancer ensured the young forward peaked at the right time. “While Mark Knowles and other foreign players taught me how to soak up the pressure and yet remain calm, Barry would constantly remind me that I was good,” said Armaan, who was bought for $4,500. “People started recognising me and my game after the 2016 edition of the league,” he says.