Chance for India to take the right turn

Under a new coach, the hosts eye improved show

Chance for India to take the right turn

The start of the year could not have brought a better opportunity for the Indian men’s hockey team. 

The presence of the world’s top seven teams in their backyard for the inaugural Hero Hockey World League Final, beginning here on Friday, should push them to raise their level while also acting as a measure to see their World Cup preparations. 

The tournament will witness top teams like World No 1 and four-time Olympic winners Germany, 2010 World Cup champions and World No 2 Australia, the London Olympics silver medallist and World No 3, the Netherlands, in action. In the maze of such talents, World No 10 India, who have entered the event by virtue of being the host nation, will have to work hard to keep up to the standard of the tournament.

Under new coach Terry Walsh, it will also be India’s first test in an international event. The side has preferred to keep a low profile and refrained from building any big expectations. The coaching staff had been busy putting the “structure” designed by Walsh into practice and believed in the need to adopt a long range view for the results to trickle in.

The Sardar Singh-led outfit will see quite a few new faces in the tournament. The return of forwards, the talented SV Sunil, who is coming back from an elbow injury, and Yuvraj Walmiki will be keenly followed.  The side has six players from the junior World Cup squad, including goalkeeper Harjot Singh, and their performance in the event will give an idea about their roles in the team set-up.

India’s aim, as one of the coaches MK Kaushik said, was to achieve an improvement of 60-70 percent by the time they go to Hague, The Netherlands for the World Cup. For the moment, the home side is focussing on their opening match against World No 4 England on Friday. 

England, who finished third at the Hockey World League semifinal in Malaysia, had given a tough time to all the top teams. The side has been boosted by the return of their experienced midfielder Ashley Jackson and attacking forward Mark Gleghorne from injuries. 

Apart from England, India have Germany and New Zealand in Pool A. Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Argentina are in Pool B.

The tournament is viewed by all teams as a stepping stone to the World Cup and by some, even the Commonwealth Games.  With this being the beginning of the year, most of the teams are short of match practice which makes it difficult to pick a favourite.

The timing of the League Finals in the year’s crammed schedule, which also has Champions Trophy, however, has not been to everyone’s liking. But the event could play a crucial role in the development of hockey. 

India, for one, should make the most of this opportunity. 

DH News ServiceGROUP A: Germany, New Zealand, England, India. GROUP B: Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Argentina. Matches on Friday: Pool B: Australia vs Belgium (14:00) and Netherlands vs Argentina (16:00); Pool A: Germany vs New Zealand (18:00) and England vs India (20:00). 

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