The new year has started and so too have new hopes from Indian hockey. Forgetting all that happened in the last one year, the Indian team is all set to start the year 2014 with a bang.
Under the guidance of newly appointed chief coach Terry Walsh, the men in blue will start their campaign in the inaugural edition of the Hockey World League Final against World No. 4 England at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi on Friday.
The Indian team, who failed to qualify for this tournament directly after finishing a lowly sixth in the World Hockey League semifinal last year in Netherlands, secured their quota in the event not on the basis of merit but by the virtue of being the host nation.
Talking about the current form of both the teams, it’s the English team who had a much better 2013 as they finished 3rd in the Hockey World League semifinal in Malaysia and 4th in the Euro Cup held in Belgium.
The Indian team, on the other hand, had a very disappointing 2013 as apart from winning the silver medal in Asia Cup in August 2013, there were no other considerable achievements for the World No. 10 team; they finished 5th out of 6 teams in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April and 5th in the Asian Champions Trophy in November.
The biggest advantage for the Indian team is that the Englishmen have not played in a competitive tournament since they lost the play-off match for the bronze medal against the Netherlands at Euro Hockey Tournament in August 2013.
Another good news for the Indian team is that the two key players, namely S.V. Sunil and Yuvraj Walmiki, are making their comebacks after sitting out for almost a year due to their respective injuries.
With the perfect combination of experienced players like Captain Sardar Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, VR Raghunath and SK Uthappa and extremely talented youngsters like Manpreet Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh and Affan Yousuf, the Indian team can surely give the world’s top seven teams a run for their money.
The English team are hugely dependent on striker Ashley Jackson who is in red hot form over the past few months. Other key players in the English team are Alastair Brogdon (Forward), Nick Catlin (Midfielder/Forward) and Barry Middleton (Midfield).
FORMAT - A total of eight teams are participating in this tournament which are clubbed into two pools. In Pool-A apart from India and England the other two teams are the reigning Olympic Champions and World No. 1 Germany and World No. 7 New Zealand.
Group-B includes the current World Champions and No. 2 Australia, World No. 3 and London Olympics Silver medalist Netherlands, No. 5 Belgium and the PAN American Champions and World No. 11 Argentina.
The Round-Robin pool matches will take place from 10th to 13th January 2014. After the completion of round robin phase, the teams will move into the crossover quarter-final phase, with the pool winners taking on the bottom team from the opposite pool and 2nd ranked team taking on the 3rd ranked team from the opposite pool.
This phase will be a knockout phase as the team which loses will eventually move out of the medal matches. The Top 4 teams will make it to the semifinals of the tournament and the rest of the teams will play for the placement.
IMPORTANCE – This tournament can be looked at as a perfect build-up tournament for the Hockey World Cup which will take place from 31st May to 15th June 2014 in The Hague, Netherlands. Apart from the Hockey World Cup this tournament will also serve as a build up tournament for the Champions Trophy which will be held in India from 13-21 Dec.
Schedule of Indian Team
10th Jan – against England (8:00 pm IST)
11th Jan – against New Zealand (8:00 pm IST)
12th Jan – Rest Day
13th Jan – against Germany (8:00 pm IST)Published 10 Jan 2014, 14:21 IST