India may have enjoyed a winning run in the opening two games of the ongoing Hockey World League semifinals, but coach Paul van Ass admits that the team has faced penalty corner issues in the absence of injured drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh.
India’s penalty corner attempts have made little impression in the matches against minnows France and Poland, although stand-in shooter Manpreet Singh scored a goal in the opening fixture.
In three penalty corners against Poland, India came nowhere near posting a threat to the rival citadel, while Manpreet managed to place a shot into the left corner of the board out of the three penalty corners India secured in the earlier outing against France.
“We’re a bit weak at the penalty corners at the moment,” said van Ass. “Rupinder has not been fit and we did not play him in these two games.”
Rupinder sustained an injury during the warm-up games in Antwerp, after coming in as a replacement for V R Raghunath in the originally-chosen squad. He yesterday ( on Tuesday) trained with the Indian team on the pitch ahead, indicating he would be ready for the next outing against Pakistan on Friday.
“Yes, Rupinder will play the next game,” the coach said.
Van Ass had initially left Rupinder out of the squad, deciding to include only frontline drag-flicker in Raghunath.
The coach felt it was opportunity to test new strategies in set-piece execution, with other players in focus.
This luxury is offered to the Indian coach by the fact that the team has already qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. India could afford not to field their best squad in the World League Semifinals, which otherwise is the last chance for some teams to qualify for the Olympics.
In the past two years, India have been served well by the efficiency of drag-flickers Raghunath and Rupinder.
Raghunath is the senior of the two drag-flickers and shared the space with ace shooter Sandeep Singh before Rupinder came into the spotlight with a fine show in Malaysia four years ago.
In due course, he replaced penalty corner specialist Sandeep in the Indian line-up and his pairing with Raghunath bolstered the defence.
Van Ass has been working on having options in penalty corners. He wants the Indian team to be able to try out more set-piece options in case both key drag-flickers are missing.
He would like India to have multiple options in converting the penalty corners.