'We've made a huge start'

Selection trials to pick Asian Champions Trophy squad begins

“There has been good improvement in the last 45 days,” the Australian told mediamen on the first day of the selection trials at the SAI campus here on Saturdayto pick the squad for the Asian Champions Trophy. “The fitness has already started to kick in. I think we are still not fit enough but we’ve made a huge start.

“For example, Sandeep Singh has lost four kilograms in fat and gained two kilograms in muscle mass. He has started to look a lot fitter and stronger. The speed of the boys has improved; now, we need to start working on our patterns. It will take some more time for all things to fall in place. The other teams have being doing this training routine for six years, spending millions of dollars. We’ve just started, so it will take time.”

Hockey India selectors AB Subbaiah, Col Balbir Singh and BP Govinda, along with government nominee Harbinder Singh and government observer Dilip Tirkey, kick-started the two-day trials which, apart from picking the team for the Ordos tournament, will help identify the core group of 30 who will form the crux of the national team for the next year. The Ordos event will be held from September 3 to 11.

Happy with the conduct of the trials, Nobbs said the idea over the next 12 months would be to create depth in talent. “The core group of 30 will comprise primarily the team that will play for India in the next 12 months. The other 18 will continue to be a part of our plans and have training programmes too.

“Slowly, we will give opportunities for guys from the other group so that they get enough international exposure. We just can’t have one team playing all tournament as injuries will shoot up. There is no way 16 guys can play all the way to the Olympic qualifiers. We need to put pressure on everybody in the team because we need to have 2-3 players for every position.”

Speaking very highly of the Indians’ skill levels, Nobbs said two days of trials was enough to pick the squad. “I’ve seen them for about three weeks while the other coaches have seen them for 45 days now. I’ve spoken to (exercise physiologist) David John about a few (injured) players who will be part of the 30. He feels there is no major issue with them and they should be fine in good time.”

Nobbs also said the core group would play some practice matches against local outfits at MEG next week.

The trials went off smoothly with only injured trio of Arjun Halappa (groin), Tushar Khandkar (ankle) and Shivendra Singh (collar bone) missing out.

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