Hockey

Indian men’s hockey team has a big task on hand

KEY PLAYERS: It would be to India's advantage if penalty corner specialists Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, seen with analytical coach Chris Ciriello, have a good conversion rate.

KEY PLAYERS: It would be to India's advantage if penalty corner specialists Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, seen with analytical coach Chris Ciriello, have a good conversion rate.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

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The women’s squad is well balanced and has the experience to bring back the big prize

As one of the younger sports in the Commonwealth Games stable, hockey hasn’t exactly been a medal favourite for Indians in the competition.

Despite the event actually ranking below the continental and world level events, the Indian men’s team has failed to breach the final barrier against a formidable Australia that has dominated every edition since inception.

On April 14, the current squad would be hoping to not just still be in the running for a medal but end the Australian jinx as well.

That is easier said than done. For one, Australia is playing at home.

Strong as the world’s top-ranked team is playing anywhere, it is virtually unbeatable on home turf.

Indian men’s hockey team has a big task on hand
 

With Mark Knowles declaring to call it a day after the Games, the team would want to give a fitting farewell to its legendary captain.

But Australia would not be the only hurdle. There is Pakistan, recently bolstered by former India coach Roelant Oltmans joining as coach, and New Zealand who was impressive as host in the recent four-nation series.

Add England, a tricky Malaysia and there are enough reasons for coach Sjoerd Marijne to not take it easy.

Risky mix

The Indian team is a bold and risky mix of youngsters with a smattering of experience. There are untested players who have impressed the coaches enough to be fast-tracked (Vivek Sagar Prasad) and some returning from injuries (P.R. Sreejesh).

There are still others, like drag-flickers Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, who have been struggling with form in recent times.

Most importantly, the heart of any side, the midfield, appears to be the weakest.

Once India reaches the semifinals, though, a medal should be certain.

However, anything less than a final would be deemed failure for Asia’s highest-ranked side.

Things are comparatively clear in the women’s section. The team appears balanced, has enough experience and its recent series win in Korea would be a confidence-booster.

India needs to win three games to reach the medal rounds but the opposition — England, South Africa, Malaysia and Wales — while not easy, is not as tricky either.

The women also have history on their side.

The CWG is one of those rare competitions where the Indian women have bigger boasting rights than the men, with a gold and silver in their kitty.

As such, while the men would be hoping to create history by winning their maiden title, the women would be looking to re-create their own golden period.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 6:34:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/indian-mens-hockey-team-has-a-big-task-on-hand/article23344068.ece

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