Starting with a rousing win over Japan in their opening outing of the fourth Asian Champions Trophy, India are looking for variations beyond ace shooter Rupinder Pal Singh’s penalty corner flicks when they take on South Korea on Saturday.
Bracing for tougher matches against former Asian champions South Korea and arch sub-continental hockey rivals Pakistan over the next two days, the Indians are pleased with the goal-scoring prowess exhibited in the 10-2 win over Japan.
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Penalty corner variations are on the mind of coach Roelant Oltmans, whose choice of players for this first tournament after the Olympic Games was restricted due to the VR Raghunath’s injury and the absence of young shooter Harmanpreet Singh, who is preparing for Junior World Cup to be hosted by India in December.
Jasjeet Singh Kular, recalled to the squad after missing the Olympics, is the other main option available to the coach, but he did not come into the frame often in the first outing, primarily because Rupinder was on fire scoring as many as six goals.
“It wasn’t that we were only looking for goals from Rupinder yesterday,” said coach Oltmans. “We tried some variations also, but could not match Rupinder’s precise shooting.”
“We have some ideas for future games and they go beyond Rupinder’s flicks. Yesterday, the ball was coming slow for Jasjit, but we still tried some variations,” Oltmans said.
There was a heavy downpour ahead of the Indian match against Japan on Thursday evening, which even interrupted the previous match between hosts Malaysia and Pakistan.
Rupinder converted his initial four penalty corner shots in the first 19 minutes of play and then came back to add two more goals to his name. This was the first time Rupinder has scored six goals in an international fixture and is eager to boost his tally in the forthcoming matches. He was already India’s highest goal-scorer this year and these six goals took his tally to 13 goals from 21 matches in 2016, which include two from penalty strokes.