Determined to take it one step at a time,India coach Baljit Singh Saini has said the two-time defending champions are looking to make it to the semifinals before aiming to claim the title in the seventh junior mens Asia Cup hockey tournament here.
India are placed in Group B along with arch-rivals Pakistan,Sri Lanka and China,and start their campaign on Friday against Sri Lanka,followed by games against Pakistan on May 6 and China on May 7. However,having won the last two editions at Karachi and Chennai in 2004 and 2008 respectively,India start favourites. The tournament here will also serve as the qualifier for the FIH Junior Asia Cup in 2013 but India are already assured of a place by the virtue of being the hosts.
Baljit felt the pressure has also eased out on the other teams as there are as many as four berths available. I have respect for all teams playing here and would not want to make any predictions. Im confident my players have the ability to do well in this tournament, he said.
India had a 45-day long preparation at Bangalore and Pune since March 15. We were fortunate that both the seniors and juniors trained at the two venues simultaneously. This provided us with valuable sparring sessions and it worked out just fine for us, said Baljit,who led India in the 1997 Junior World Cup at Milton Keynes.
Of the 18 players here,nine are also part of the probables for the senior squad. They are Amit Rohidas,Pradeep Mor,Thimmanna Puliyanda Lokesh,Satbir Singh,Akashdeep Singh,Prabhdeep Singh,Gurmail Singh,Sampath Kumar and Malak Singh and are expected to put up a good show.
My first task is to ensure that the juniors play the same system as the senior squad as one day these players will graduate into the senior ranks, said Baljit,who worked as an assistant to Michael Nobbs in the senior team for almost over a year.