I'll have that one: The numbers game

Harjeet Singh, captain of the Indian junior hockey team, prefers the number 5 on his jersey. MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

Numbers in sport have unwritten but understood associations. Similar to football, in hockey your position often defines what number you wear.

ESPN caught up with some of the Indian Junior Hockey team players to get an insight into why they opt for the numbers they do, and which ones they would want, when things don't go their way. More often than not, there was a story behind it:

No 10: The big shot

The number 10 jersey in football is usually handed out to someone considered the brightest talent in the team. Think Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, or Eden Hazard. Opposition teams in Lucknow have already identified a certain number 10 in the Indian team - striker Armaan Qureshi.

While Qureshi had a host of reasons for picking the number 10, it was the football fan in him that had the final say. "Apart from hockey I'm a huge fan of football and especially Messi," says Qureshi "He is a number 10 too. When I had the option of choosing it was obvious I had to pick that number."

However, Bhopal-born Qureshi, also has another, more personal reason for his choice - to keep up a family tradition. His uncle Hasrat Qureshi, who also represented the country in the 1990s, wore the number 10.

"I started playing hockey watching him. I used to use his stick when I started. So it made sense to wear the same number as well," he says.

21: Not what the captain ordered

Harjeet Singh, captain of the junior team, you expect, would be on top of the pecking order. 21, though wasn't his first choice. His prefers the number 5, one he wore ever since he started playing hockey.

"I wore this jersey (number 5) even when I was playing at school at the Surjit Singh Academy in Jalandhar," Harjeet says

"The central midfielder always wears this number. I was hoping to wear this number at the senior squad too but Kothajit Singh already had this." But now, 21, holds special meaning for him, and he has worn it since. "The jersey I had when I first played for the seniors will always be special," he says.

Not content with being No. 1

Drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh has a similar story. His original choice is 13 - the number he began his hockey career with. The number is generally considered inauspicious but it's often the first option for most Indian players.

"The number 13 is holy for the Sikh community. It's a number associated with Guru Nanak. (13 is terah in Gurmukhi which is phonetically similar to the word which means 'yours'. i.e sab terah Waheguru) I'm a Sikh so I wanted a number that means something to me," says Harmanpreet.

Unfortunately for him, the number was already taken when he arrived at the national team by currently out of favour Gurbaj Singh. So Harmanpreet had to make do with jersey number 1, which he has continued with.

Lucky No. 11?

Striker Mandeep Singh had luck on his side though, and it wasn't 7. When Mandeep played for the Ranchi Rhinos in the Hockey India League (HIL), England's Ashley Jackson wore his favorite number - 11. The HIL was where Mandeep first came into national reckoning and although he wore a number 22 jersey, his eye was always on the number 11.

"The moment I was picked for India, I asked if the 11 jersey was available. Luckily it was," says Mandeep.

A goalkeeper with a forward's No 9

Goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, is another who hasn't got his jersey choice. He wanted 12 but that has already been assigned to teammate Dipsan Tirkey. Pathak, as the team's second choice goalkeeper is currently 9.

But he hopes to get the jersey of his choice. It's his way of paying tribute to the player he considers his mentor. Yogita Bali, the Indian women's team's first choice goalkeeper, first spotted Pathak when he was 11 years old at the Railway Ground in Kapurthala. Pathak's family is of Nepali origin and hockey was something that wasn't even considered as an option.

"Yogita didi has always supported me," Pathak says "I didn't have money to buy a goalkeeper's kit but Yogita didi lent me her own. That was my first kit. If I'm in the junior team now it is because she has always supported me. She wears 12 and I want to honour her by wearing the same number. That's what motivates me to get even better than I am," he says.