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The Junior Hockey World Cup not only provides India a chance to end their 15-year-old title drought in the event, but also gives the colts an opportunity to enter the senior core group which will be reformed soon, said the senior side’s chief coach Roelant Oltmans.
Oltmans, who is the chief coach of the senior Indian hockey team till 2020 Tokyo Olympics, however, asked the junior players to fully concentrate on the job at hand as their performances in the World Cup and next HIL will be taken into consideration while forming the new core group.
“I believe in quality and testing new players. I have told the junior players that a new core group will be formed after the 2017 HIL and everyone has a chance to get into it but that will depend on their performances in the World Cup and HIL,” Oltmans, who is overseeing the preparations of the junior team alongside chief coach Harendra Singh, told PTI.
“But I have also told them not to burden themselves thinking about the senior side now. Their main task at present is to play as a team in the World Cup,” he said.
Regarded as a hard taskmaster, Oltmans feels the hosts are among the most balanced in the Junior World Cup to be played in Lucknow from December 8 to 18.
“We have a balanced team and that is our strength. We have more experience than others because of playing in HIL. We have performed well in the last two years and we also have key players in every line,” the legendary Dutchman pointed out.
“We will play as a team and aim for consistency. We will be playing attacking hockey.”
Having said that, Oltmans, however, refused to predict India’s chances in the event, which according to him, will be full of “surprises” and “unpredictable”.
“I know in India everyone wants to see the team win gold medal but this is not my style of working. Every team will come into the tournament expecting podium finish. But I always take one match at a time and my present target is our first game against Canada,” he said.
“The interesting part about the Junior World Cup is that it is always full of surprises. If you look at the past, the tournament is very unpredictable.”
Asked who would be the toughest opponents for India in the tournament, Oltmans said, “It is very difficult to say because most of the teams are on the same page. Australia, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, England all will be out to prove a point.”
India have been placed in Pool D alongside England, Canada and South Africa in the 16-team tournament. The hosts will open their campaign against Canada on the opening day on Thursday.
The only time India won the Junior World Cup was way back in 2001 in Hobart, Australia.