Hockey team targets podium finish at Azlan Shah Cup

Hockey team targets podium finish at Azlan Shah Cup
The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the first tournament of the new season, will offer multiple challenges to the Indian team.

While it will be a test for the young side featuring a clutch of juniors to excel on the big stage, the tournament will also offer a chance to try out different game plans, keeping the other major competitions in mind. 

Skipper PR Sreejesh said the team is targeting a medal at the event. “This tournament is like the base and you have to strengthen it. We can’t expect everything to go right. But whenever we play a tournament, we target a podium finish and that’s our goal this time also. When we try new things, sometimes we go wrong or sometimes we get it right. That is how we execute on the field that matters,” he said on the eve of the team’s departure to Ipoh, Malaysia. 

India take on England in their first tie on April 29 but the big clash for Roelant Oltmans’ men is on May 2, when they take on the mighty Australia. Sreejesh said the team has certain plans for the second-ranked side in the world. 

“If you keep beating the top teams it gives you confidence and beating Australia will boost our morale. But defeating a top team is not easy and that’s where we need to show our improvement. We also need to focus on other teams and not just Australia. We are going to try lot of new things in the tournament and we certainly have some plans for Australia,” Sreejesh offered. 

India’s chief coach Oltmans agreed that Australia will be a tough nut to crack. “If you look at the world rankings it is very clear who will be the strongest team and that has to be Australia. England and New Zealand are also good. All these teams, except Malaysia, are in transitional phase. They have already started working on building a team for the future. 

“We have trained on our how our game plan should be while in possession and when we are not in possession. We have changed something on that front and I am curious to see how we implement it. These new strategies are  important considering the upcoming big tournaments like the Hockey World League Semifinal,” Oltmans explained. 

Sreejesh said it had been a good experience guiding the juniors. “The junior players have been with us for a while and they have bonded well. It will be a good experience for them to play at the big level. For me it will be a challenge to work on their mentality. I want them to show the commitment required to play in the senior team. Rather than thinking about the opponents, they should concentrate on giving their best,” he said.  

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