Argentina tour an acid-test for India hockey colts

December 2nd, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) The Indian junior hockey team will test its crack combination in the away Test series against Argentina from Dec 8-14.India will play four matches with Argentina and one against the Netherlands. The team leaves Thursday for Argentina.

The junior team have performed exceptionally well in last few years with the Asia Cup triumph in July coming as an icing on the cake. But the squad has been overhauled since then and the series against tough oppositions like Argentines and the Dutch will show whether the country will remain a force at the junior level.

Coach A.K. Bansal sounded confident and said that the team will put up a good show despite not many international exposure coming their way since the Asia Cup. Their series against Pakistan was not cleared by the government at the last minute.

Bansal said there are some new faces in the squad that last played in Asia Cup but have shown their potential by winning the Nehru Cup hockey tournament last week.

“There are seven new players in the squad that played in the Asia Cup. Though it will be their first international exposure but they have gelled well in the Nehru Cup where they defeated some good teams,” Bansal told IANS Tuesday.

“I was apprehensive about how this team will shape up, especially when they are put under pressure. The Nehru Cup was an indication that they can perform well,” he said.

Jai Karan is one of the players who stole the show in Nehru Cup scoring seven goals.

“He is a find for us. He has great control and speed and has the potential to make it big.”

Mohammed Amir, Asif Khan, Birender Lakra, Hari Kripal and Santosh are the other new faces while Asia Cup players Gurbaz Singh, Gurwinder Chandi, S.V. Sunil, goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh and Roshan Minz were left out.

“We decided to change some of the players from the Asia Cup squad. Though we won the tournament, the performance of some of the players were below par while some graduated to seniors. That’s when we picked up new boys from the camp and gave opportunities to those who were warming the benches, keeping an eye on the future,” Bansal said.

India will have a new goalkeeper in Mrinal Chaubey while Santosh Kumar is the second choice.

“Mrinal did not get too many chance but whenever he played, he gave his best. Now he will have a full tournament,” the coach added.

Argentina, who won the 2005 junior World Cup, will be a tough opposition.

“This is the first time that a junior team will travel to Argentina. They are a tough opposition and known for playing rough hockey. I want the boys to prepare to that kind of hockey so that they are ready to tackle such situations in future,” Bansal said.

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