Junior Hockey World Cup: Unbeaten India still work in progress despite three wins
There are hardly any international tournaments in sport that India enters as title contenders, including and especially in team events. However, India’s present junior hockey team, currently playing the 2016 World Cup in Lucknow looks like a special bunch with certain je ne sais quoi and could well go on to do an encore of 2001 (the last time India won).
India defeated South Africa 2-1 in their last game of the group stage to make it three wins in three and setup a quarter-final clash with Spain. On paper, things are looking good for India, having scored 11 goals in three matches and producing some scintillating hockey. However, it would be incorrect to say that the team has reached its full potential.
While the 4-0 win over Canada was fairly comfortable, the victories against England and South Africa showed defensive frailties. Coach Harendra Singh, talking to Sportskeeda, said, “Defeating England is no easy task as they are an accomplished hockey team. Yes, there are things we would like to improve but then the scope to improve is always there. I think this is a good bunch of players that is willing to work really hard.”
India topped their group to setup a quarter-final clash with Spain, who managed to win only one match out of three during the league stage. However, they also have a penchant for scoring goals, something that India will be wary of when the two teams take on each other.
The style of hockey being played by India in the 2016 Junior Hockey is largely based on speed and fast offensive movement. To put it simply, as a digression from earlier Indian teams, this one uses its legs as much as hands during the game. While this will result in the Indian team scoring more often than not, it also opens up the possibility of counter attacks from the opposition, something we saw in the game against South Africa.
High octane hockey based on speed and attack is something not seen from Indian teams over the past few years but the Harjeet Singh-led side is making waves in Lucknow. They are opening-up defences with excellent wing movement and threading thrThis is a much-needed change in philosophy for the hosts and Harendra Singh, with Roelant Oltmans at his side, is doing everything possible to customize his team to maintain this level.
Luckily for India, they have not peaked at the Junior Hockey World Cup yet, which might prove to be a blessing. Peaking at the right time is critical in a tournament and you do not want to play your best during group stages. India play Spain tomorrow and it will be a good time to take their game to the next level while sealing a spot in the final four.