Azlan Shah Cup: New-look India team has a lot to play forMay 4th, 2011 - 7:30 pm ICT by IANS
Ipoh (Malaysia), May 4 (IANS) India have always done well in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament here. They shared the trophy with Korea last year and won it outright in the previous edition. They have come with a new-look side in this year of Olympic qualification.
India will get to test their game against some of the best hockey nations, though not all of them are at their full strength, some have lost their top players through injury and some others are trying out their bench strength as they gear up for the 2012 London Games.
India have won the cup in 1985, 1991, 1995 and 2009, too.
India are here with a new captain Arjun Halappa and Harendra Singh as chief coach and their performance will be closely monitored. Though Harendra has been associated with the team for long as Spaniard Joe Brasa’s deputy, he will try and make a case for a permanent Indian coach.
India started their warm-up for the tournament well, winning both their practice games, beating a Malaysian junior team 5-0 and overpowering New Zealand 5-3.
“We had some good practice games. The real test will begin Thursday. South Korea is a good side, but we have beaten them in our last two meetings,” Harendra told IANS.
Commonwealth Games silver medallists India beat South Korea 1-0 in Guangzhou to win the bronze medal at the Asian Games.
Australia, who in 2010 become the first team in history to win the Champions Trophy, World Cup and Commonwealth Games in the same year, are fielding an inexperienced side as some of their key players were unavailable owing to injuries and league engagements.
Britain are playing here for the first time in a decade and their squad has 14 players who played at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Also taking part are Asian Games Champions Pakistan, Commonwealth Games bronze medal winners New Zealand and hosts Malaysia.
“The objective of this tournament is to monitor our improvement. We will take it match by match. Most of the teams this time are at full strength unlike last year and the competition will be a lot tougher,” Harendra noted.
“We hope the team’s performance here will keep them well prepared for both the Champions Trophy and the Olympic qualification tournament to be played in New Delhi later this year.”
With Sandeep Singh missing from the squad, Diwakar Ram and Dhananjay Mahadik will man the defence and show their drag-flicking prowess.
Diwakar got injured in one of the practice matches, but is fit to play Thursday.
“He had a cut on his eyebrow necessitating four stitches but he has been cleared for the match,” said Harendra.
The coach said the absence of key players like Sandeep, Sardara Singh, Rajpal Singh and Tushar Khandekar is an opportunity for others to come good.
“Injuries kept Rajpal and Tushar out while Sardara and Sandeep are away playing in the Belgium league. Their replacements are getting a great opportunity to force their way into the squad.”
Sardara, who was India’s best player last year, will be missed in defence, but Harendra feels his replacement Rupinder Pal Singh has the potential to combine well with other two defenders Diwakar and Dhananjay and do well.
“We have worked individually on every player. Diwakar and Rupinder have played for the country and they know their responsibility. Rupinder played well in the European league. They are in good shape and we have to wait and see how good they are mentally.”
In the forward line, Shivendra Singh, Sarvanjit Singh and Gurwinder Singh Chandi are the players to watch out.
Roshan Minz is making a comeback after three years so as S. V. Sunil, who is back after recovering from a knee injury.
Indian midfield led by Halappa has been the most consistent. Gurbaj Singh, veteran Vikram Pillay and V. S. Vinaya can be solid.
India will take on Britain (Friday), Australia (Sunday), Malaysia (Monday), Pakistan
(May 11) and New Zealand (May 12).
- HI announces squad for Sultan Azlan Shah - Apr 19, 2011
- India need to cover all bases against Pakistan - May 10, 2011
- Adrian, Sandeep, Diwakar dropped for Azlan Shah hockey - Apr 24, 2010
- Tough challenge for India in men's hockey - Sep 09, 2010
- Asian Champions Trophy: Rajpal to lead men's team, Anjum women's - Aug 16, 2011
- 48 probables selected for national hockey camp - Jul 16, 2011
- Azlan Shah team missed experienced players: Skipper Halappa - May 17, 2011
- Sandeep, Sardara breached discipline: Rajpal - Aug 29, 2011
- Indian hockey team to play in Hamburg Masters - Jun 16, 2010
- Virtually entire hockey squad in WSH list - Nov 17, 2011
- HI calls meeting of selectors, coaches to sort out players' issue - Aug 24, 2011
- We have identified a pool of players: Harendra - May 16, 2010
- Chetri to lead hockey team in Champions Challenge - Nov 18, 2011
- Indian hockey squad for Commonwealth Games announced - Aug 30, 2010
- Azlan Shah Cup: India gear up for New Zealand - May 23, 2012
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