India’s hockey captain Sardar Singh says his side has enough fire power to tackle strong opponents such as world number one Australia and reigning Olympic champions Argentina at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, beginning Saturday.
India will open their campaign against world number two Argentina on Saturday.
The experienced mid-fielder exuded confidence that India can come up with a solid show in the season-opening event which also features England, Ireland and hosts Malaysia.
“It is extremely important to start the tournament well. A good match against Argentina will give the team the confidence for the rest of the matches to follow. Every match in the Pool Stage will be important to ensure a place in the final. We have beaten teams like Australia and England in the past and have done well against Argentina too. We just need to ensure we play in a structured manner and execute the team’s plans perfectly,” Sardar said ahead of team’s departure.
“It will be a good competition and Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has for long been a tournament that sets the pace for the rest of the calendar year and doing well here will be important for us. We have had a grueling camp in SAI, Bengaluru where the focus was on taking our attack and defensive skills to the next level,” stated the 31-year-old.
In the previous edition, India had finished third after beating New Zealand 4-0 while Great Britain won the title after beating Australia 4-3 in the final.
In the Pool Stage though India had a mixed outing with a 2-2 draw against Great Britain in their first match, followed by 3-0 win against New Zealand in their second match, but lost to Australia 1-3 before a narrow 4-3 win against Japan.
But it was the 0-1 loss against hosts Malaysia that had dented their chance to enter the Final.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1983, the Indian team has lifted the trophy five times (1985, 1991, 1995, 2009) while they shared the trophy with South Korea in 2010.
In 2016, when Sardar Singh last captained the Indian team, they had ended the tournament with a silver medal after losing 0-4 to Australia in the Final.
“It is always a proud moment to lead the Indian team. But my role will be no different from what I have been doing in the camp where we seniors have taken the responsibility to guide the junior players in the squad.
At tournament too, it will be important to help them shake off the initial nervousness and I am confident with senior players like Ramandeep Singh, SK Uthappa, Surender Kumar and Talwinder Singh and very talented junior players, we will come up with a good show,” signed off the charismatic mid-fielder.