Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: A confident Indian hockey team is on its way to Kuantan in Malaysia on Sunday to defend the Asia Cup title. The tournament is scheduled to be held from May 9 to 16.

This will also be the first competition for India with a new foreign coach, Jose Brasa. As National coach, Harendra will share the responsibility with the Spaniard.

“I have not spoken to Brasa yet but I know we can strike a very good partnership. I have always maintained that we needed a foreign coach and Brasa will surely take Indian hockey forward,” said Harendra, who conceded that the tournament will offer competition of a high quality.

The focus, emphasised Harendra, was more on the team and less on the team management. “Things have improved immensely and we are on the right track. The players have their confidence in place and there is much for them to show at the Asia Cup.”

Sense of security

The best thing, according to Harendra, was the sense of security among the players. “Perform and play. The players know it depends on them. I must say the selectors have done a stupendous job of not picking players who were not fully fit. In the past, I have known players who hid injuries and only added to the team’s problems. With injured players on the bench, the team suffers.”

On the insistence of Harendra, rigorous fitness tests were conducted on the players and the selectors supported the move by not picking Ignace Thakur and Deepak Thakur, both not fully fit.

“A firm policy decision had taken that no injured player would travel with the team. This means that some youngsters will get an opportunity. It was a bold decision by the selectors,’ said Harendra.

Worthy combination

Describing the team as a worthy combination of excelling at the Asia Cup, Harendra stressed, “It will be great to win the title because we would then become the Number 7 team in the world. We are number 10 now.

“We have to look ahead and nothing short of a victory at the Asia Cup would help Indian hockey grow.”

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