As preparations go,the Indian mens hockey team couldnt have asked for more than a series against South Africa as their last competitive outing before the Olympic qualifiers next month.
But given that some of the key members of the Indian team would not be available for this series due to injury,coach Michael Nobbs will,however,use the opportunity to blood youngsters. Our final 18 will most probably,but not necessarily,be from those who play here, he said ahead of their first match. India will be without injured Gurbaj Singh,Yuvraj Walmiki and Rupinderpal Singh for the series.
Captain Bharat Chhetri said that the probables have already been shortlisted to 31 some of whom will get a chance to play here. The rest,mainly youngsters,will form the back-up for our team and attend events like Sultan Azlan Shah for exposure, he said. That said,the fact that the coach and captain have chalked out different plans for youngsters may mean that the seniors may well have picked themselves for the qualifiers.
Indias desperation to qualify would pale in comparison to the South Africas frustration,having to go through the qualifier route despite being African champions. It is frustrating because we beat Egypt in the final there and they are quite a strong team; on the other hand,it will give us another chance to participate in a tournament (the qualifiers) where winning is the only way to London., SA coach Gregg Clark said,
Women begin with win
The Indian women,in a similar situation as the men,opened their four-match series against Azerbaijan with a 3-0 win on Sunday. Anuradha Devi,Soundarya Yendala and Joydeep Kaur scored,the last two off penalty corners,but it wasnt a convincing show.
Coach CR Kumar admitted that the lack of rhythm and the missed scoring chances during the game was something that needed working on. Given that they have African champions South Africa in their group at the qualifiers,the Indian women have a lot to do,if today was any indication.