The Indian hockey team will launch its World Cup campaign on Wednesday with its first training session at the newly-constructed Dhyan Chand National Stadium. The tournament proper commences on February 28 with India slated to meet Pakistan in the opening fixture.

The players have been told to concentrate on the training and forget the unsavoury episode during the preparation camp at Pune last month that involved them against the administrators on the issue of payment of their “dues.”

Reflecting on the preparations thus far, the coach of the team, Harendra Singh said the players have set their sights now on the World Cup. “We have had some wonderful sessions in Pune and are looking ahead. The training has been as modern as one can imagine.”

Elaborating, Harendra said, “the training (under chief coach Jose Brasa) has allowed the players to frankly discuss their role and learn to perform to their best. For example, the forwards have been given a free hand but also the responsibility to play their role to perfection when the team is under attack.”

Room for flexibility

Harendra emphasised that each player has a specific role to perform but there was “room for flexibility” depending upon the demand of the situation.

“The challenges keep changing during a match and we have made the players understand the importance to quickly adapt. Your role can change as the match progresses.”

At Pune, enough time was devoted to prepare the team in all departments of the game. “It is not just about hockey with the ball. Off the ball tactics are equally significant. Just as in basketball and football. The game is fast and rough but there is space for skills too. For long we have struggled to employ the man-to-man marking tactic but this bunch of players has been strongly told to learn this important aspect of modern hockey.”

From zonal type marking to man-to-man marking has proved to be a vital change in the technical aspect of the game and the Indians have been comparatively slow in adapting. “There are no ifs and buts now. We have finalised our style of play and from now efforts would be only to polish the game of the players.”

Harendra asserted that the year was most crucial for Indian hockey. “For us, 2010 would make it or break it. I am certain the team will deliver. The Dhyan Chand stadium is the best gift that the nation could have given to the players. It is now the turn of the players to give the nation a gift to remember.”

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