The Indian hockey team are banking on the familiarity aspect when they kick-off their World Cup campaign in The Hague, Holland, three weeks from today. As the preparations for the tournament enter the final stretch, chief coach Terry Walsh and captain Sardar Singh insisted that the preparatory tour to Holland last month leaves them in good stead. India had played Test matches against Holland and Belgium at the host city in April.
Though the team lost almost all their matches, barring one win and a draw against domestic Dutch clubs, Walsh said he was impressed by the significant improvement the players have shown in the last few months. The 59-year-old Australian, who took over from compatriot Michael Nobbs last October, said they are now focusing on introducing new techniques and putting in place strategies for every opponent.
“The 33 players for this preparatory camp are very good and up to the mark to take on the challenges of the international tournaments. Also the European Tour has shown good results and has proven to be a useful tour for us. The team did not lose by a huge margin, rather a good fight was put up by the entire team,” Walsh said.
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“Plus the players are showing significant improvement in their self belief and there is a good overall development. The weather at The Hague will not be a problem as it is expected to be around 20 degrees and hence a pleasant temperature to play in.”
Sardar, who will lead the team, said the tour of Europe has boosted the team’s confidence. The blue turf at the Kyocera Stadium is believed to be slightly bouncy and the players took some time getting used to it during the tour last month.
“It’s just 20 days left for the World Cup and we are shaping out well. All the players performed well during the European tour. This not only has helped boast our confidence but even has given us a feel of the pitch, weather and other things there. We are very happy with the way the coach has helped us overcome our weaknesses. The entire unit is focusing on the game and the tournament ahead,” he said.
The quadrennial event begins on May 31, with India opening their campaign against dark horses Belgium. India are placed in Group A along with Australia, England, Spain, Malaysia and Belgium.
“With less than 3 weeks left to the World Cup, the preparations of the entire unit here is coming out good and everyone is geared up to take on the challenges of the big platform. While there are many focus areas during the preparations like introducing new techniques, putting in place strategies keeping the opponents in mind, we are also completely focusing on the development and improvement of each player,” Walsh said.