'S Africa series ideal trial to pick squad'

'S Africa series ideal trial to pick squad'

 Indian men’s hockey chief coach Michael Nobbs on Sunday said the upcoming five-match ‘Test’ series against South Africa was ‘extremely important’ as it would provide him the platform to handpick the best 18 players of the country for next month’s Olympic qualifiers.

With eight-time champions India failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Nobbs is aware of the enormous task he has undertaken and is eyeing the series against South Africa to try out his strategies ahead of the Olympic qualifiers to be held here from February 18-26.

“We are eyeing this series as trials to pick the team for the Olympic qualifying tournament. We will try out different combinations, different teams and pick the best team,” the Australian told reporters in the pre-match press conference ahead of the first ‘Test’ against South Africa on Monday.

“This series is extremely important for us because we want to pick the best 18 players for the qualifiers,” Nobbs added. “Everyone is going to get an opportunity in the series against South Africa. We will try out lots of new things in this series.”

Asked whether performances in the series would be the sole criteria for securing a place in the team for the Olympic qualifiers, Nobbs said, “Not necessarily but probably.”
Citing the example of Gurbaz Singh, who has been ruled out for the series due to a knee injury which he sustained during the preparatory camp, the coach said the midfielder is too good a player to be ignored if he is fit.

“Gurbaz has got a second degree strain and he needs three weeks’ rest. But I told him whenever he is fit, I will bring him in. He is a class player,” Nobbs said.

He also stressed the need to tighten up India’s defensive line, which has taken a beating under pressure on numerous occasions in the recent past.

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