India hopes to put World Cup disappointment and change of staff behind to kick off Pro League

Published - March 09, 2023 08:53 pm IST - ROURKELA

File photo of Indian hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh who will hope to better with his drag-flicks as opposed to the underwhelming show during the FIH men’s Hockey World Cup 2023.

File photo of Indian hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh who will hope to better with his drag-flicks as opposed to the underwhelming show during the FIH men’s Hockey World Cup 2023. | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

India’s disappointing campaign in the recent Hockey World Cup may have been over, but its ghosts continue to haunt the players. Ahead of India’s Pro League match against Germany here — the triangular series including Australia has been billed as a mini-tournament — captain Harmanpreet Singh was circumspect about the changes in the last one-and-half month.

“We have worked on penalty corners, of course, it is on our mind,” he admitted on Thursday. It was expected, given the massive let-down the skipper had with his drag-flicks and one of the biggest reasons for India’s early departure from the tournament. It wasn’t easy for Harmanpreet, accompanied by newly-anointed vice-captain Hardik Singh, to return to the venue of his worst nightmares.

While Graham Reid was with the team in Bengaluru, former HPD David John will hold interim charge here. “Working with David John, there have been some changes in structure. We have tweaked our strategies a bit and will try some new positionings. It is always good to have at least two different strategies that you can swap any time.

“These are all learning matches and while results do matter, this is also the right time to work on any changes and plans,” Harmanpreet said, adding that the team’s main focus was winning the Asian Games and everything was planned towards that.

At the other end of the field on Friday will be newly-crowned world champion Germany, which had a diametrically opposite campaign, winning tight games and closing out matches in the dying moments. Coach Andre Henning and captain Mats Grambusch, however, preferred to tone down any expectations, insisting it was more important to take care of the players.

Germany’s captain Mats Grambusch receives the trophy after winning the FIH men’s hockey World Cup 2023 final against Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, on January 29, 2023.

Germany’s captain Mats Grambusch receives the trophy after winning the FIH men’s hockey World Cup 2023 final against Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, on January 29, 2023. | Photo Credit: K.R. DEEPAK

“We are not used to this environment in Germany so it is a pleasure to be here, especially when you step onto the field. But the days before are a lot harder, both physically and mentally,” said Grambusch.

“We are only human and winning the World Cup — something we have been working on for more than 10 years — and then only 2-3 weeks off before getting back to being fully focused takes some time.

“We will of course try to do well, but there won’t be any massive improvement. If we can only play at the same level as the WC, we have already done a good job,” Grambusch was clear. That will be a high level to begin with for the other teams.

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