Keys for India to Win Gold in Asiad Men's Hockey
For the first time since the Busan Asian Games in 2002, the Indian men’s hockey enters the Asian Games as defending champions. What’s more, they are also the favourites. They will face a spirited challenge from the Malaysians and a resurgent Pakistan under their coach Roelant Oltmans with South Korea also being a potential threat.
But based on their recent form, which saw them win the silver medal in the Champions Trophy after a tough final against Australia that ended in a draw in regulation time, and the quality of the team personnel should see India retain their gold.
But nothing should be taken for granted in sports and the Indian hockey team cannot afford to be complacent going into the tournament. There are some areas where they have to perform well in order to emerge triumphantly. Let’s look at 3 important parts of their game that the Indian team needs to get right for securing gold.
Provide support to Mandeep Singh
Mandeep Singh is an excellent forward and when he gets the ball around the D or inside it, is extremely capable of putting it in the net. But he doesn’t always get the support from the midfield. This is where the Indian team will have to improve and keep feeding the ball to him. The more opportunities he gets, the greater the number of goals for India would be.
He would also benefit from the support of other forwards like SV Sunil and Aakashdeep Singh. These two can provide pace on the ball which, when coupled with the accuracy and astuteness of Mandeep, can be lethal.
Penalty Corner Conversion
Let’s be fair. Penalty corners conversion has become a major challenge for all teams around the world, in men’s as well as women’s hockey. We saw recently in both the Champions Trophy for men as well as the Women’s World Cup that teams are finding it increasingly hard to have a good conversion rate from set pieces.
But India can hope for better results due to the return of Rupinder Pal Singh into the team. The tall defender has been very successful over the years as a penalty corner specialist and would give India another solid option besides Harmanpreet Singh to try and covert the set-pieces into goals.
The utilisation of Sardar Singh
Sardar Singh is, undoubtedly, a legend in this tea, though the last couple of years have been difficult for him for reasons both on and off the field. He was, strangely, turned from a mid-fielder to a defender in the Hockey World League Finals last year and he really struggled in that role.
Thankfully, he was brought back into the crucial mid-fielders position this year and seems to be getting his form back. When on a role, he is a breathtaking player to watch and can make a huge impact on the game.
Opponents know this very well and they target and try to neutralize him. If other players in the mid-field support him, he could become the play-maker that wins matches for India once again.