The Olympic hockey test event at the Riverside Arena in London last week was a reality check for the Indian team in more ways than one.
Apart from the unfamiliar blue turf and the superiority of the opposition,the players also found it hard to crack the defence and earn those precious penalty corners that they rely on.
Especially against defences like Germany,it became very difficult to find penalty corner chances, said Sandeep Singh,who was used sparingly in the last two games at the four-nation event, at the sidelines of a promotional event. Itll be challenging to create those chances,and against a side like defending Olympic champions Germany,we might get only one or two, he added.
While the turf blues are expected to ease out as the Indian hockey team traverses across the globe from Malaysia (Azlan Shah tournament) to Spain (6 Tests) and France (2 Tests) before culminating at London and the team gets used to tougher opposition than what they came up against in the Olympic qualifiers in February,its the lack of PCs that remain a concern,even as silly mistakes and an indifferent defence have emerged as the immediate apprehensions.
What has offered some solace is that,once the Indians get a chance,they manage to to put one past the opposition more often than not. Our conversion rate is over 65-70 per cent,which is very encouraging. Hollands is 30-35 per cent, Sandeep,who had hammered in 16 during the qualifiers against lesser teams,stated.
In London,the Indians earned four in their four games and converted three all against Great Britain (4-2 in the league loss,and 2-1 in the bronze playoff),with Raghunath managing two and Sandeep one. The only other goal came via Shivendra Singhs conversion an early surprise lead against the Germans during the 2-1 loss. Indians have always been known to not have that great a penalty corner record,but that will change this time, Sandeep added.