With mix of experience and youth in team, India are ready Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2016. And aiming to finish at podium in the Champions Trophy between 10-17 June at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at London.
Playing best of the world hockey including Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and Korea in marquee event of FIH, will be real test and chance for India to fine tune their preparations Rio Olympics 2016.
In the Champions Trophy 2016, Defender Harmanpreet Singh, one of the outstanding performers from the team’s Silver Medal winning Sultan Azlan Shah Cup team, finds himself retained in the squad, and is joined by his junior colleagues, Harjeet Singh and Goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya. Dahiya will be a back up to the returning PR Sreejesh in the team.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and defender VR Raghunath, who were rested for Malaysia, are back in the squad to provide a strong backbone to a strong looking Indian lineup. Sreejesh, will Captain the side, and SV Sunil retains the Vice-Captaincy.
Before opening match in London where India taking on the Germany, Oltmans stressed on the team’s defence structure. “It is the key to a team’s success at a tournament. There are times when you can’t score too many goals to win a match but you can certainly win by avoiding the opponents to score. The Germans are known for their defence while the Australians defence is slightly unconventional compared to others and Argentina too heavily depend on their defence for good results. It helped them win Bronze at the World Cup. In our structure, the entire team needs to work on defence. Some of our attackers are good in defence too and that is our strong point,” he says.
The coach believes if things go as planned, the team will stand a good chance to win a medal. “Everybody knows we are good in the knockout stage. But Champions Trophy this year will be slightly different and we need to finish top two to play the final and be top four to play for Bronze. It will be interesting to see how our players will cope to this situation and face the challenge. Our realistic expectation is to finish in the top three,” he adds.
June will be a crucial month for the Indian team as they travel to Spain soon after the Champions Trophy in London. They return only in July and Coach is aware that some of the younger players will have to ward off the pressure of getting picked for the Olympic squad to be announced in July. “There will be a little bit of pressure. It is a challenge the players need to be prepared for and show their best hockey. Only 16 out of 29 members in the camp will get to play at the Olympics and that is quite a sizeable number to drop. They will have to challenge other players in the team which is why every match, every performance is important,” he concluded.
As a stand-in Captain for Sardar Singh who is rested for the Champions Trophy, Sreejesh says, his priority will be to ensure the youngsters in the team stay motivated. “As a youngster, playing against teams like Australia can add extra pressure. My aim as a Captain will be to keep them high-spirited and bring them to that level. Right from the highest capped player for the team to the junior most in the team we all have responsibilities to fulfil and our realistic expectation will be to play consistently throughout the Champions Trophy,” he said.
Indian Squad for Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2016:
P.R. SREEJESH (GK & Captain); VIKAS DAHIYA (GK); PRADEEP MOR; V.R. RAGHUNATH; KOTHAJIT SINGH; SURENDER KUMAR; HARMANPREET SINGH; DANISH MUJTABA; CHINGLENSANA SINGH KANGUJAM; MANPREET SINGH; S.K. UTHAPPA; DEVINDER SUNIL WALMIKI; HARJEET SINGH; TALWINDER SINGH; MANDEEP SINGH; S.V. SUNIL (Vice – Captain); AKASHDEEP SINGH; NIKKIN THIMMAIAH