India took a delightful victory against Malaysia in the Asian Champions Trophy final on Saturday. This win will aid the team's confidence ahead of the Asian Games, set to be held in Hangzhou, China.
While Malaysia originally had a 3-1 lead, the Indian men’s team eventually stormed to a 4-3 win in Chennai, to claim their fourth ACT title.
When asked what this win would signify for the team ahead of the Asian Games, team coach Craig Fulton said:
“I feel like finals are cagey affairs. They never go smoothly, like the Olympic finals or World Cup finals. It is always up and down, and it comes down to one moment or shootout. So, it's important to have a game like this, because it really counts. If we didn't win today, we were out, and we would lose the finals."
The India coach continued:
“At the same time, it is not the Asian Games, so our feet are firmly on the ground. We've won this tournament, but if you said to me you'd win the Asian Games and lose this final, I'd obviously say we win the Asian games. But still we play what's in front of us.
"We have this moment, and we have this game. It didn't go well in the first half, but we turned it around and that’s character, and that’s showing that in the journey we’re on at the moment we’ve still got another step to go.”
Fitness key weapon in India’s arsenal at the Asian Games
Speaking on the Indian team’s fitness ahead of the Asian Games, Craig Fulton said:
“Well, I think there's no guarantee that you’ll win just because you're fit, but you definitely won't win many games if you're not. It’s kind of a necessary evil, that we have to be at our top peak fitness at the crucial moments, towards the end of the tournaments. You have to have enough in you if you're chasing a game, so that you can press for the whole second half.
“Even if you’re 2 or 3 up, you still have to be fit enough to manage them coming at you, taking their keeper off, playing with an extra man. So fitness is probably one of the main priorities of the model game we're playing at the moment.”
When asked how India’s high fitness level affect their game, Fulton mentioned that it's certainly a positive.
“I think any team that plays us knows we're really fit, and they've to match us in all four corners. But we can still get fitter, and still get stronger, but I think the biggest positive is mentally you start to believe that you have another gift.
"Also, your skill is derived from your fitness, so if you want that fast-paced game, you need to have that quick speed, repeatability, and I think we’re growing in confidence that we can play hockey at a high tempo.”