Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014

India look to banish defensive frailties

The Players train ahead of their Commonwealth Games campaign. (Source: PTI) The players train ahead of their Commonwealth Games campaign. (Source: PTI)
Written by Shivani Naik | Glasgow | Posted: July 25, 2014 1:58 am | Updated: July 25, 2014 12:52 pm

The blues ought to have vanished with the Olympics and its wretched blue carpet surface for the Indian hockey team. Though they find themselves in a similar backdrop and skyline in Glasgow as they did in London, with recent bruises from the WC campaign fresh, there’s a spring in the strides of the team at Glasgow Hockey Centre. India is scheduled to start theircampaign against Welsh on Friday.

Had the WC been kinder to the blue-sticks, the team could’ve breathed easier and prepped keeping in mind the Asian Games — qualifiers for the Olympics. But a downer of a campaign’s never great for confidence, so India’s in a hurry to grab a medal, at the soonest opportune time

Asian Games are crucial, but as it turned out, familiar defensive fumbles in dying minutes returned like a nasty nightmare at the Hague, though those within the squad believe they’re closer to cracking the code of barricading buoyant waves of attack that rivals throw at them frequently enough. The fact that India’s not played Wales in a while means the guard will be up from the outset and India cannot afford any looseness in their defensive third.

“We really want to erase memories of London,” says Danish Mujtaba, who is itching to get going, and show detractors that Indians can hold fort till the end and have learnt their lessons from the blundering sign-offs of the last many years.

“There’s some basics and discipline and composure which we will stick to,” says the midfielder with a high work-rate, himself looking to find his rhythm alongside captain Sardar Singh, and share the all-rounder’s workload. Sardar has also stressed on how all players are comfortable in their positions now.

A good start’s essential to not panic, though a meltdown is never too far from this team, given how things in London panned out despite a promising start in their first Olympic outing. Coach Terry Walsh has warned against the Welsh defense that is capable of flustering and frustrating India’s forward line, which essentially needs to score.

Indian attacks had looked as listless as dehydrated peas when London closed out, and the return of Gurvinder Chandi from injury should excite the WC squad, which was missing a spark. “India didn’t play badly at the WC,” says Mujtaba, arguing that they are closer to patching the defense up.

Mujtaba himself returning from a surgery, had dedicated six months to complete rehab with cousin Ahmed Nasir, who also trains tennis international Yuki Bhambri. After one month of being bed-ridden and six months of repetitive strength-workouts, Mujtaba wants to break loose against the Welsh.

“I lived alone in Delhi away from family to work on my strengthening and fitness after the surgery. It was mind-numbing boring, repeating the same exercises over and over again. But it was needed to be done to regain continued…

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