Out of contention for a podium finish, young Indian side led by Danish Mujtaba will hope to beat hosts Malaysia in the final round robin league encounter of 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament.
As far as the points table is concerned, title contenders Australia with eight points from four matches need only a draw against New Zealand to seal their place in the final.
For the ‘Black Sticks’ at six points, only a win will suffice to nose ahead of their traditional rivals.
Sitting pretty are the hosts Malaysia, with eight points and the advantage of knowing the equation to play their cards accordingly to clinch their deserved place in Sunday’s summit clash.
India with three points from four matches at the best can qualify for a third—place play—off
India coach Michael Nobbs conceded that though outplayed by New Zealand, the team would strive their best to derive meaningful result from the last two matches (including play—off).
“Rallying behind a developmental side, I view every match as an opportunity to identify grey areas and work on to erase those. With 10 boys in the junior ranks, the event has served the purpose it intended for us.
“Try as they might, the boys just could not raise their level of game like the one against Pakistan. There are a lot of positives for the boys in their learning process. It takes time to translate the learning into results and patience is the key,” added Nobbs.
Malaysia coach Paul Revingon said that the priority is to get back into the World Cup and the acid test for the boys will be the Asia Cup at Ipoh in August and the World Series in Johar Bahru.
All the same, Revington is wary of complacency creeping into the Malaysian team. The affable coach recalled the similar situation in the Champions Challenge—I in Argentina last December when Malaysia won four straight matches against Poland, South Korea, Canada and South Africa before succumbing to the Koreans (3—6) in the semi—finals.
Precisely, the reason, Revington has asked the boys to keep their feet firmly on the ground and keep up the consistency till the finish.
“The present bunch is a tried and trusted one with the abilities to take on the best in the world. As the coach, the onus is on me to mould them for the desired results.”