Losing heavily to the Germans, narrowly to the Kiwis and then bouncing to withhold some parity by winning against the emerging Ireland and drawing against the likes of Argentina and hosts Spain. Mistrappings, open chances and loose balls as it was a bit of a tired performance from team India in the recently concluded 6 nation invitational tournament in Valencia, Spain.
Was it a good tournament?
It was a lackluster performance for the returning Rupinder Pal Singh in defense so much so that one could not recognize whether Birendra Lakra or Rupinder was returning from an injury spell. But knowing how this man bounces even on an off day much like the bronze medal match against the Dutch in HWL 2015, I am sure he has stored the best in him for Rio.
Both look a certainty given the wealth of experience at their disposal. Doesn’t look like Roelant Oltmans would drop anyone from the backline, given that defense has long been a problem area.
Many were lackadaisical in their approach, kind of exhausted by the travails of last one year and resting their batteries for the big one! Ramandeep missed some sitters in front of goal and with no goals from both Raman and Talwinder in this tournament, it looks highly unlikely that either of them would now make the 16 man squad for Rio.
Even PR Sreejesh let in a soft goal against the Kiwis, and would be disappointed with that.
Where were the experiments?
Let's not be too harsh on this Indian team, they had to try out all that the think-tank had to offer to qualm all fears and issues. After all, this was an unofficial FIH event with no points and one that is not going to affect our rankings. It was highly unfortunate as the fans had to struggle to find a live stream link as the tournament was not telecasted live on television.
Perhaps Hockey India should have been more proactive. They did arrange for the link from other nations participating in this tournament but it was a bit too late, i.e. after the first match. India rested Harmanpreet for the match against the Kiwis, perhaps for the fear of burning him out.
The team also went in with a last man against Spain to go all out for a win. They also tried out different defensive combinations and also at the other end in the attack.
Hope this acts as a reality check for both the team, coaching staff and the fans alike before the main tournament. There are plenty of areas that still need to be addressed. The minimum goal at Rio would be to attain the same standing as our ranking at least. We need to approach it one match at a time, playing to the pros & cons of our opponents.
Probable team for Rio 2016:
1. PR Sreejesh (Vice Captain)
2. Vikas Dahiya
3. Rupinderpal Singh
4. Birendra Lakra
5. VR Raghunath
6. Kothajit Singh
7. Surender Kumar*
8. Harmanpreet Singh
9. Sardar Singh (Captain)
10. Manpreet Singh
11. Danish Mujtaba
12. Devinder Sunil Walmiki
13. Chinglensana Singh
14. Akashdeep Singh
15. SV Sunil
16. Mandeep Singh
*Ramandeep Singh or Talwinder Singh
Note: Depending upon whether the coaching staff decides to go one up in attack or one more in defense, it would be a toss up between Surender Kumar and Ramandeep Singh/Talwinder Singh. Unfortunately for Surender, he is the least experienced defender and with Harmanpreet also as a drag flicker, he might be the first one to miss out.