The countdown for the junior World Cup, to be held here from December 6 to 15, started with Hockey India announcing an unchanged squad which had taken part in the recently concluded Asian Champions Trophy and the England team arriving here on Wednesday.

For the host, the build-up had been a long-winding and meticulous affair with a battery of coaches, including chief coach Gregg Clark, taking care of every aspect of the preparation.

The team finishing fifth in the Asian Champions Trophy in Japan was not much of an issue as the trip was supposed to give exposure to the under-21 boys.

“In Japan, we had some weaknesses. But we improved to make those our strong points. We are learning about ourselves,” said Clark, on the occasion of the announcement of the side at a function here.

Midfielder Manpreet Singh will lead the side, while deep defender Amit Rohidas will function as his deputy. Penalty corner expert Gurjinder Singh has shed several kilos to become leaner and vows to exhibit better skills in the event.

Taking advice

“Sandeep Singh takes out time to visit our camp every week and shares his knowledge with us.

“I have trained as per his advice on how to look for space and create angles (while shooting from short corners). In Japan, I had scored three goals out of four attempts and I feel confident,” said Gurjinder.

Penalty corner defence has been another area of concern and goalkeeping coach Dave Staniforth, who specialises in this subject, has contributed a lot. “I have worked on the players’ mindset. It is important to keep the guys stable.”

The South African was satisfied with the progress of the goalkeepers too.

Following his sensational debut in the Asia Cup, forward Ramandeep Singh, who commanded a whopping $81,000 in the Hockey India League (HIL) auction, has kept his feet on the ground. “It (the success) is a big thing for me, but I am not taking pressure. I will keep it simple.”

Manpreet assured that the side would not buckle under the pressure of expectations. “There will be pressure of playing in front of the home crowd. But some of us recently played in Malaysia (where a lot of Indians backed us) and remained unaffected. I have told them to forget about the crowd and concentrate on their job,” said Manpreet.

According to coach Baljit Singh Saini, this time the preparation had been well-planned. “Everything has been planned so meticulously and there are coaches to look after every aspect of the game. The team is all set for the competition.”

India, placed in Pool ‘A’, will meet the Netherlands in its first match at the National Stadium here on the opening day of the event.

The squad: Goalkeepers: Sushant Tirkey and Harjot Singh; Defenders: Gurjinder Singh, Amit Rohidas (vice-captain), Surender Kumar, Sukhmanjit Singh, Pardeep Mor, Kothajit Singh; Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (captain), Satbir Singh, Harjit Singh, Imran Khan, Prabhdeep Singh; Forwards: Malak Singh, Mandeep Singh, Talwinder Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh.

Standbys: Jagdeep Dayal (goalkeeper), Lalit Upadhyay and Gurmail Singh (midfielders) and Affan Yousuf (forward).

Chief coach: Gregg Clark; Coaches: Baljit Singh Saini and B.J. Kariappa; Goalkeeping coach: Dave Staniforth.

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