Coach Graham Reid threw his weight behind his players, specially Rajkumar Pal coming as a replacement player, ahead of the crossover match against New Zealand, citing his previous outings against the same opponents in the Pro League to buttress the youngster’s claims.
Rajkumar was included in place of Hardik Singh after the latter was ruled out for the tournament. “Hardik is a good player and in very good form. But Raj is also in good form and one of our future stars. Those who have watched the games against NZ earlier would have seen some of the stuff he can do, so we are confident. He is very fit, works very hard in defence, has silky skills and he is handling the ball very well at the moment. We have enough talent to compensate,” Reid insisted on Saturday.
While New Zealand coach Greg Nicol claimed the pressure would be on India and his team was looking to capitalise on key moments during the game, Reid backed his players to come good.
“It’s true they have nothing to lose and pressure is on India. I also back my players to stand up under pressure and nothing has changed my view that if we play well, we can beat any team,” he declared.
The last two times the teams faced off, in the Pro League, India scored 11 but conceded seven and Reid said the team had got better defensively since then.
“We needed to tighten our defence since then and is now more set. Then we were still trying to work out who our best six were, we have done that now and I am looking for a strong defensive performance tomorrow night.
“Wales had their game of the WC the other night, playing in front of a huge crowd and I think (Gareth) Furlong said after the game that they had nothing to lose and went full pressing. That’s what we are expecting to see from NZ also,” he added.
The coach was also candid about his reactions after the Wales game, admitting he was frustrated.
“A coach will always say he is frustrated when you don’t score but it will be more frustrating to not create those scoring opportunities. As long as we are creating those, we will have a much better chance of winning. We have made a few changes in the way we are going to operate, get that circle more open for shots.
“On that night, I was disappointed. We found just before the game that we needed to score eight goals and that goes to the head, instead of doing our normal calm thing — I think we overcompensated. Looking at the videos, I was more than happy with our performance. There was some really nice stuff we did,” he added.