High-on-confidence Indian hockey team leaves for Australia
- High-on-confidence Indian hockey team leaves for Australia
The Sardar Singh-led 21-member Indian senior men’s hockey team left for Perth on Wednesday to take part in a four-test series against world champions Australia. The four-match Test series will be played at the Perth Hockey Stadium in Perth. The visiting Indian team will warm themselves up with a practice game against a West Australian side in Perth on November 1. The team more or less have the same combination which featured in the Incheon Asian Games, where they won the gold and sealed their berth for the Rio Olympics.
Minor changes in the squad
Gurwinder Singh Chandi, who staged a national comeback during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, has been rested and will be replaced by Lalit Upadhyay, who last played in the 2014 World Cup in The Hague as a last minute replacement for Ramandeep Singh. Mandeep Singh, who has been out of the national fold, also marks a return to the side for the Aussie trip. Goalie Harjot Singh, fullback Gurjinder Singh, SK Uthappa and Satbir Singh are the other players who are on a comeback trail.
The first India-Australia Test will be played on November 4, with the second Test slated to be held the following day. The team will have a two-day rest before squaring off in the third Test on November 8 with the fourth and final Test scheduled to be held the next day. Hockey India High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans said the Australia Test series will be a big learning curve for the Indian team. “There are so many youngsters in this Indian team, they will benefit richly playing against the fast, attacking Kookaburras. It will be a big learning curve for the team, especially the youngsters.”
Chance for players to perform
Oltsmans believes the comeback-making players have plenty to gain from this Australian trip. “Harjot, Sarbit, Uthappa, Gurjinder, Lalit and Mandeep will be keyed up to make an impression as there is healthy competition for places in the side. I hope they make the most of the opportunities.
The celebrated Dutch coach stopped short of saying whether India have the ammunition to ground Australia in their own backyard. “We just want the team to improve all the time and I hope our team fares well against Australia, but it will not be easy,” he said just before the team left the Delhi airport.
Annual series in talks
It may be significant to mention that both Hockey Australia and Hockey India are locked in discussions to make the India-Australia hockey series an annual affair – which can a massive boost for hockey in both the countries.
Squad: Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Harjot Singh; defenders: Gurbaj Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, Gurjinder Singh, Harbir Singh Sandhu; midfielders: Manpreet Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Sardar Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Satbir Singh; forwards: Nikkin Thimmaiah, S.V. Sunil, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay.