Having drawn their last two matches,Pune Strykers have squandered a bit of momentum despite maintaining their unbeaten start to the World Series Hockey season. With nine points from five games so far,Pune are joint second on the table a home win against second-from-bottom Chandigarh Comets could take them to the top of the table,but a defeat could send them hurtling down a few places.
As always,Pune will depend heavily on drag flick expert Gurpreet Singh,who has so far scored eight goals in the competition. But Lungile Tsolikele and Mario Almada,the big names in the forward line,haven’t yet set the tournament on fire. Coach Gundeep Kumar will hope for more goals from his pair of imports.
Gundeep was impressed with his team’s hard-fought 3-3 draw against Chennai Cheetahs on Friday,but wishes that his team could have taken a win out of their previous match,at home against Bhopal Badshahs,rather than a draw. Here too,the forwards were a little wasteful,considering the plethora of chances created in the first two quarters.
“For 65 minutes we dominated,but in the last five minutes we nearly lost it,” Gundeep said on Saturday,reflecting on the 1-1 draw. “We should have won that match,and converted all those chances we created.”
A particularly impressive performer for Pune in that match was local boy and central midfielder Vikas Pillay. His coach hailed Vikas’s influence in the match,and on the team in general. “It was definitely the turning point,” Gundeep said,referring to the moment Vikas left the field after a collision at the end of the third quarter. “We lost our shape,and our fluency. Vikas plays a very important role for us. You can call him the backbone of our team he’s an attacking player,and a team player.”
Apart from Vikas,Pune’s squad also features three other city boys in Vinod Nair,Vikram Yadav and Alvin Alexander. All four,in the same early 20s age-group,hail from hockey-mad Khadki Vikram and Vinod even played together at SVS High School.
“Vikas is an outstanding player,while Vinod and Vikram are upcoming stars,” Gundeep said. “Alvin hasn’t had as many opportunities as the other three so far,but he’s a talented boy,and with a little more effort will get regular opportunities. He can definitely use the World Series as a platform to showcase his potential.”