Weather holds key in junior World hockey: Bansal

June 2nd, 2009 - 8:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Adapting to energy-sapping steamy weather conditions in Singapore and Malaysia will be key to India’s title hopes in the junior hockey World Cup starting June 7, says coach A.K. Bansal.
The Indian team last won the Cup in 2001, and finished fourth in 2005.

India have fared exceedingly well under Bansal in the last couple of years, making podium finishes at international tournaments and also winning the junior Asia Cup at home.

The World Cup though will be a different ballgame competing with top teams like Argentina, Australia, Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Bansal said the team is geared up for the challenge.

“We have a balanced side and we have achieved success in international tournaments. We have learnt from our mistakes and that should help the boys in coping with the stiff competition,” Bansal told IANS Tuesday before leaving for Singapore.

India are placed in tough Pool D with the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore. Two teams from each of the four groups will qualify for the second stage.

“In the other three groups, there are only two strong teams. In our group there are three. So we cannot afford to relax even in the preliminary stages.”

Bansal said conditions will have a major say in the tournament.

“It is very humid there and also the turfs are new. Our boys are in their best physical shape, but the challenge would be to play to their full potential in such conditions. There will be plenty of fluid losses and it will be debilitating. Luckily some of our players are used to playing in tough, unfriendly weather.”

Humidity is above 80 percent in Singapore and Johore Bahru in Malaysia where the matches will be played.

“We had a good camp in Bhopal where the temperatures were in the 40s, but playing in dry heat is different from sticking out in humid conditions. We are going four days before the start and will play two practice matches against Germany and Chile. Hopefully we will be able to acclimatise to the conditions.”

The focus was on defence in the camp at Bhopal, said Bansal.

Bansal said skipper Diwakar Ram, who is also a penalty corner specialist, will be the guiding force of the team.

“Diwakar has been in brilliant touch and was the top-scorer in India’s Asia Cup triumph last year. The skipper will have the additional responsibility to man the defence along with Innocent Kullu and Manjeet Kullu.”

India also boast of a strong forward line in Jay Karan, Amir Khan, Danish Mujtaba, Pramod Kumar and Mandeep Antil.

“After Asia Cup we brought some new faces in the team and the changes have been rewarding. This team is better than the side that won the Asia Cup. Jay Karan, Amir and Pramod are now the key players. Antil has the experience on his side. Goalkeeper Mrinal Chowbey has also improved and lot more confident now.”

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Mrinal Choubey, Harjit Singh.

Full-backs: Diwakar Ram (captain), Innocent Kullu, Manjeet Kullu.

Midfielders: Birendra Lakra, Amardeep Ekka, Vikas Sharma, Vivek, Belsajar Horo, Vikas Pillay.

Forwards: Mandeep Antil, Jay Karan, Danish Mujtaba, Pramod Kumar, Mohd. Amir Khan,

Victo Singh, Dharamvir Singh.

Coach: A K Bansal


Pool A: Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia.

Pool B: Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan, South Africa.

Pool C: England, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, USA.

Pool D: India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore.

India’s schedule

June 8: India vs Singapore

June 9: India vs New Zealand

June 11: India vs Netherlands

June 12: India vs Poland.

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