The Men Hockey Team of India is all set to depart tomorrow (2nd April 2015) from Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi for the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be played at Ipoh, Malaysia. The all important tournament is slated to take place from 05- 12 April 2015.
In a tournament where six teams will be seen participating namely, India, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Malaysia and Canada, India will be seen clashing against Korea in their first match scheduled for 5th April 2015.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh feels that Gurbaj’s versatility will prove to be advantageous for the team India, while Birendra Lakra feels it is good opportunity for the team. Chief Coach of Inda Paul van Ass is getting familiar with the team and players as he chalks out his plan for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and future tournaments.
Speaking on the upcoming tournament, Chief Coach Paul van Ass said, “We are working on every department of the game, it’s not about focusing on only one area. The team has some strength and weaknesses and we have to work on improving the strength as well as find solutions to our weaknesses. I have spent a good amount of time with the team and I understand the team more each day. The aim is not to make major changes but to adapt according to the new system. The focus is on the improvement of technical skills of players. Players are in good shape and working hard. I am working on the 60 minutes that each player spends during the match. Suppose, a player keeps the ball for 2 minutes in a match, I am working on what he does in the rest of the 58 minutes of the game. Similar to this technique, we are working other aspects of the game as well. The team is very much prepared for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. We will put pressure on the opponents in each match and play all matches with the same intensity. We are looking forward to the tournament in Malaysia.“
Talking on the sidelines of the tournament Birendra Lakra said, “The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be a good opportunity for our team and we are in good position now. The new Chief Coach is working well with us and we are learning new things about the game and various strategies. Our defence is strong and we are confident enough. “
Speaking on the upcoming opening clash against Korea, Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh said, “We met Korea last in the semi-final of the Asian Games. While we had won that match we cannot do away with the fact that they are a very competitive and strong team with a good line of attack. To counter them we will have to be strong in all aspects of the game, with clear focus on trying to cash in on the penalty corners. For me, I know they will try every possible way to sneak goals and I am up for the challenge. We will want to start the tournament with a win which will help boost our confidence for the next clash”.
Talking on Gurbaj, he said “He is growing with every game. I was amazed to see him in the recent Hockey India League. The way he defended and counter attacked was amazing. His speed is the key which helps him to go forward and come back to the defence line in a short span of time. His versatile ability will be a boost to both our defence as well as the strikers in the upcoming tournament”.
The Men Hockey Team of India will be participating in the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at Malaysia from 5 April 2015 – 12 April 2015. India will play their first match against Korea at 15:40 HRS IST on 5 April 2015.