Contemporary off India’s bronze medal in Tokyo, coach Graham Reid was optimistic about the place he can take the lads’s crew. Reid’s males had hoisted the Indian colors on the Olympic hockey podium for the primary time in 41 years, rekindling the romance for the sport within the nation.
“Now we have not seen one of the best of this crew but,” stated the Aussie, as he shortly started charting plans to construct on the Tokyo success.
The subsequent Olympic cycle is underway and all eyes will likely be on what the senior crew can obtain within the upcoming 12-months that characteristic the Asian Video games and a house World Cup.
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Whereas Rupinder Pal Singh, Birendra Lakra and S.V. Sunil introduced their retirements put up the Olympics, Reid has stored the nucleus of the Olympic squad intact together with his choices indicating an eye fixed on the long run. He has referred to as 32 gamers to date for the Asian Champions Trophy and the FIH Professional League with 16 of the 19, who travelled to Tokyo, that includes closely.
The midfield has pretty remained the identical with new inclusions seen in ahead and defence. Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Varun Kumar and Surender Kumar nonetheless kind the primary alternative defence, with Jugraj Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Mandeep Mor, Dipsan Tirkey and Nilam Sanjeep offering help. Within the assault, Abhishek, Shilanand Lakra and Sukhjeet Singh are the brand new faces.
Good begin: Amit Rohidas has taken over the captain’s armband from Manpreet Singh and has taken India to the highest of the Professional League desk. – BISWARANJAN ROUT
Reid additionally hasn’t built-in many names from the junior pool for the reason that crew’s fourth-place end within the Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar, late final yr. Solely two gamers have made the lower, from which, Vivek Sagar Prasad, has performed for the senior crew since 2018.
Probably the most notable change has been the removing of the captaincy armband from inspirational midfielder Manpreet Singh, who has had an inconsistent run and handing it to Rohidas. Curiously, there was no rationalization from the coach on that entrance.
The rookies and fringe gamers have been given alternatives however with combined outcomes. A robust Indian crew got here up brief towards South Korea and Japan within the Champions Trophy, the place it completed third. Within the Professional League, India suffered defeats to France (away), Spain (dwelling) and Argentina (penalty shootout), however is positioned high of the league standings, on the finish of its dwelling leg, having performed extra video games.
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Indian hockey legends Vasudevan Baskaran and M.M. Somaya don’t wish to take a look at the factors desk as the true indicator of how this group is shaping up. They need the crew to keenly give attention to the Asian Video games, the place a gold medal can safe qualification for the Paris Olympics.
Baskaran, who led India to the 1980 Olympic gold, feels, “this crew will keep it up until the Asian Video games and it’s positively not the 2024 Olympics crew. I believe he would possibly begin removing some senior gamers after the Asian Video games. He gained’t make many modifications going into the Asian Video games with the [Olympic] qualification at stake.”
He additionally doesn’t foresee any shock inclusions from the Commonwealth Video games (CWG) squad, the place India is sending an ‘A’ crew to compete, that includes Rupinder, Birender and Sunil, all of whom reversed their retirement choices final month.
“One good factor is Sardar Singh teaching the crew. I’m not positive if the crew can characteristic within the medal bracket on the CWG. I don’t suppose the crew has the wanted punch. Those that made their retirement, [the decision] was accepted and it was taken in a great way. Coming again to play within the growth crew, I’m not positive how motivated they are going to be. My critical thought is that India will not be pining for a medal on the CWG, and they’re there solely to take part. If it had been as much as me, I’d have despatched extra gamers from the primary crew to the CWG, as a result of they get to play higher video games than on the Asian Video games. Reid already has a cream of 25 gamers to select from, I don’t suppose he’s going to search for gamers from the CWG group,” says Baskaran.
Powerful job: If India, which final gained gold on the Asiad in 2014, desires to say the highest spot, coach Graham Reid should conjure one of the best model of this facet that’s nonetheless a piece in progress. – BISWARANJAN ROUT
Analysing the personnel modifications within the final six months, Somaya, Baskaran’s teammate and three-time Olympian, says: “Among the new gamers, who’ve are available in, have performed properly. I’m not but satisfied by the defence, together with the goalkeepers. In defence, barring the previous guard, like Harmanpreet [Singh], the brand new guys don’t appear prepared. The ahead line has been spectacular, Sukhjeet, Shilanand and Abhishek, after being given just a few rounds of publicity, are shaping up fairly properly. The gamers tried in defence haven’t risen to the duty. In deep defence and goalkeeping, we’d like extra publicity, and it’s an space of concern.”
Within the Professional League, whereas India has plundered in 54 objectives, it has let in 30, towards groups which can be rebuilding framework. Of the 54, 24 are discipline objectives the place the youthful expertise Abhishek, Sukhjeet and Shilanand have contributed with their aptitude and technical capability. However after scoring 16 discipline objectives within the opening 4 video games towards France and South Africa, openings have been exhausting to come back by towards defences which have sat again deep in a counter-attacking strategy.
Harmanpreet has taken over as the first drag-flicker position and is the main scorer within the ongoing Professional League with 16 strikes, with 11 transformed from penalty corners. However India’s penalty nook routines have usually lacked selection. “There must be a couple of man for penalty corners. Jugraj (Singh) and Varun (Kumar) are performing in patches and aren’t but a powerful quantity two as drag-flicker, which the earlier crew had. The earlier crew had three robust candidates for these eventualities,” says Somaya.
By the course of the Professional League, India has been responsible of conceding smooth objectives, a lot to the chagrin of Reid. Management has been exhausting to come back by within the video games towards France, Spain, Argentina and England, nevertheless it completed strongly within the ultimate dwelling tie towards an inexperienced German crew.
Somaya stresses the necessity for having an outlet in central midfield and a powerful defensive unit.
“In central midfield, the linkmen of Hardik [Singh] and Manpreet or Vivek Prasad, if they’re packed exhausting by the opposition, there isn’t a guile in the remainder of midfield to create openings or passes for the ahead line. We have to consider a method round it, possibly a few wing halves, who can obtain the ball from the deep defence and have the guile and imaginative and prescient to create.
“Defence will not be a one-man tackling artwork. It’s teamwork. The earlier crew took six-seven years to create the chemistry that they had. The understanding in defence ought to are available in an impulsive method. The crew ought to work in unison. If they’ll plug these areas, they are often more practical. Among the objectives now we have conceded, particularly from penalty corners, have been smooth objectives,” says the three-time Olympian.
India has 4 matches left on the dwelling of Olympic champion Belgium and the fourth-ranked Netherlands, and these video games might show to be its largest check within the Professional League, earlier than the Asian Video games.
India has sparked whereas attacking, however performances have been removed from full. Whereas India will enter the Asian Video games, the subsequent large task on the horizon, because the favorite, it gained’t be a simple outing with Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Pakistan posing a powerful risk.
If India, which final gained gold on the Asiad in 2014, desires to say the highest spot, Reid should conjure one of the best model of this facet that’s nonetheless a piece in progress.