New Delhi: Young India goalkeeper Akash Chikte is confident of doing well against world's best sides having dished out some creditable performances since his international debut last year at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Chikte, who had travelled to Kuantan for the Asian Champions Trophy last year as a reserve goalkeeper, had to step up for an injured PR Sreejesh. He played a crucial role in India's 2-1 win over the hosts Malaysia.
India subsequently won the final 3-2 against defending champions Pakistan and Chikte stood up to the pressure of
facing the arch-rivals.
"It is this exposure over the past year that has helped me a lot. I look forward to good show against the world's best
teams," said Chikte.
At this year's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup also Chikte faced a similar situation after Sreejesh was ruled out of the tournament due to an injury, which he sustained while playing against Australia. The team returned from Malaysia with a bronze medal.
Chikte feels he is a far better goalkeeper today than a year back. "After my first tournament for India I knew there was a
lot I needed to work on starting from improving my confidence level. I had never been in any junior India camp before. I got to play the senior level directly and I knew I was lacking in basics," said Chikte after a gruelling net session at the on-going national camp in Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru.
The 24-year-old from Pune is all set to take part in the forthcoming 3 Nations Tournament in Dusseldorf, Germany and Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final (Men) in London, where India are grouped with Canada, Scotland, Netherlands and Pakistan.
While all the pool stage matches will to be high voltage encounters, there will be tremendous pressure when India take
on Pakistan in their third pool match on June 18.
"We will look at this as any other match, vying for the three points to advance in the tournament. I have played twice
against Pakistan (2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Asian Champions Trophy) and we ended up winning both the matches, so I have a lot of confidence from these matches. I believe it will be a learning experience for me," he said.
A constant name in the goalkeepers list for India camp, Chikte used the chance to learn from Bharat Chetri and India's
ace goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
"I have learnt a lot under them. I used to watch Sreejesh when the national team used to train at Balewadi Stadium, Pune. His reflexes were excellent. I was inspired by him and he has helped me a lot since my first camp.
"Working under Sreejesh and Bharat has been a big advantage for me. My focus at every session now is on stopping penalty corners," Chikte said.