Team is peaking for junior hockey world cup: coach

January 21st, 2009 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) India’s junior hockey coach A. K. Bansal feels his players are peaking at the right in time for the World Cup in June, having consistently done well against top teams like Australia, the Netherlands and Argentina in recent months.The colts finished runner-up to Australia in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival last week and had beaten the Dutch and the Argentineans last month. Importantly, all these victories came away from home.

“After these impressive victories, India are now strong contenders for the junior World Cup, co-hosted by Malaysia and Singapore,” Bansal told IANS on return home from Australia.

“The team has improved with every match and proved that they can beat any team. These exposure trips in the last couple of months have shaped the team well.”

The boys fought well even in the matches they lost. Now I have found the combination for the World Cup and if we continue to perform the way we have been, we stand a good chance.”

India finished fourth in the last World Cup at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, four years ago, but this time the team is confident of doing much better.

The Indians did their reputation no harm in Australia where they beat the hosts, the reigning world champions, at the league stage.

“We could have easily defeated them (Australia) in the final, too, but for their goalkeeper Garner Scot who stood like a rock and foiled our boys on quite a few occasions.”

“I thought our overall performance was very good and the best was against Malaysia. We came back down 3-5 to hold them 5-5 and that reflects the fighting ability.”

Bansal said full-back Hari Kripal played splendidly and was the find of the tour

“Kripal got a chance because Innocent Kullu had a viral and he was impressive in the entire tournament. He was as good as captain Diwakar Ram and at times he even stood out. Mandeep Antil and Birender Lakra were the others to perform well.”

Bansal said fitness was the key for the players’ good performance.

“They have worked very hard to improve their fitness levels in the camps and it is showing up now. The squad in supremely fit and that helped them to beat the top teams regularly.”

Goalkeeping is one area where there is scope for improvement, he said.

“We conceded some goals which could have been saved. We need a goalkeeping coach with the team. Devesh Chauhan was doing a good job, but we were without a coach on these tours.”

India would next play in a four-nation tournament in Malaysia in March, pre-QWorld Cup event before to test the facilities.

“It will be a good outing for the boys as they will be playing at the World Cup venue. We will start preparing for it from next month.”

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