SK Uthappa is one of the new faces in Michael Nobbs team who will be representing India in the London Olympic qualifier staring at Major Dhyanchand Hockey Stadium this week. He talks to Gaurav Jha of Indian Sports News about his debut, the preparation ahead of the Olympic qualifiers and much more. Excerpts:
ISN: Olympic qualifier is going to start now. Are you nervous?
Uthappa: I would say that I am more excited than nervous. It is a big tournament and the whole nation is waiting for it. We are preparing well and I hope to have a good tournament. My only goal is to contribute to the team.
ISN: You scored your first goal in the recently concluded South Africa Test series. How was the feeling?
Uthappa: To score a goal in my debut match was an awesome feeling. It was a dream come true for me. Playing for the country is a huge honour in itself and to score the goal was icing on the cake. I am never going to forget that moment.
ISN: You have come in the team as a replacement for some big players. Will it be an added pressure to perform well?
Uthappa: If you are selected in the national team it is your responsibility to perform well as you are representing your country. I will not have this in my mind that who I am replacing, I will play the best I can to serve my country.
ISN: Personally, what to do you want to achieve through this tournament?
Uthappa: I do not have any personal goal. As a team we want to qualify and that is our mutual goal. It will be a big thing if we can qualify as the last time we were not in the Olympics and we want to change it.
ISN: Being a striker yourself, who do you think will be the highest goal scorer at the end of the tournament?
Uthappa: As long as the player is an Indian it works for me. I want somebody from my team to be on the top of the list of the goalkeepers, it does not matter who it is.
ISN: How do you feel playing alongside senior players like Sardar Singh and Sandeep Singh?
Uthappa: Playing with the experienced players will help me for sure. I can learn a lot from them technically. They are among the best players in the world and sharing the field in such a big tournament will be very good for me. I will try to learn how they handle the pressure in tough situation.