Millennium Post

Sardar focuses on key aspects

After a long HIL season, hockey fans are in for more treat with the Hero Hockey World League Round 2 beginning on Monday at Major Dhyanchand National Stadium.

Not just because India start the six-team tournament as clear favourites with the other five teams being China, Ireland, Bangladesh, Fiji and Oman, the World League is the qualification tournament for 2014 FIH World Cup in Hague, the Netherlands. The top two finishers will move into the third round.

Talking about the event after its official opening ceremony on Friday, India captain Sardar Singh said the tournament will give good exposure to the youngsters in the team. He also urged his players to not take any team lightly and said the exposure in the recently concluded HIL will stand in good stead for the boys.

‘In modern day hockey, we can’t take any team lightly. We can’t consider China easy and Ireland is a tricky side. If we play our normal hockey and give 100 per cent we should win easily,’said Sardar, who expects his players to be fit and ready to fire after a lengthy HIL campaign.

‘The World League has helped the boys a lot. The sheer experience of playing and sharing the dressing room with some top foreign players will really help the boys. We have learnt a lot from the Australians and Germans during HIL. I think the boys will be motivated to do well,’said the star forward.

Sardar also believes that youngsters like Malak Singh and Mandeep Singh deserve a place in the squad after their good performance in HIL. ‘We needed players like Mandeep and Malak in the team and it is because of HIL that they came into limelight,’he said.

Goalkeeping issues stay with India and Sardar was quick to note that. He was concerned about the performance of his goalkeepers P.R. Sreejesh and P.T. Rao, who were unimpressive in the HIL but backed them to shine.

‘Obviously, goalkeeping is a concern because Sreejesh and Rao did not have a very good HIL. But ups and downs are part and parcel of a player’s life.

‘I feel Sreejesh is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It was a matter of time he gets his form back. I feel it’s just about regaining their self-confidence back as soon as possible,’ Sardar said.

If the men’s team is an overwhelming favourite, the women’s team have a tough task at hand because they are seeded second behind Japan in their group. Russia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Fiji are the other participating nations.

Skipper Ritu Rani was confident of a good show from her players. ‘Our preparation is going very well. For the last one month the entire team is together. We have a relatively young team

She said the team’s training hard and are focusing on key areas on the pitch. ‘In trainings, we have been focussing mainly on penalty corners and scoring as many goals as possible. We also want to curb down the penalty corners of the oppositions.’

‘Japan is ahead of us in rankings so they will be a tough opponent. But we remain upbeat as our coach (Neil Hawgood) has been working very hard with us and it’s up to us to implement his strategies,’ she added.
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