Youth Olympics 2018 Qualifiers : Can Indian hockey make the cut this time?
The Commonwealth Games 2018 were a mixed bag for Indian hockey. While both the teams had the honour of making it to the semifinals together, they also had the ignominy of returning without a medal, a first for the Indian men's hockey team in the last 12 years. However, the hockey fans will now divert their attention towards the next piece of action: The Asian qualifiers for the field hockey event at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics.
According to the latest format, as prescribed by FIH for the event at Youth Olympics, since Nanjing 2014 edition, field hockey is played in the Hockey 5s format.
According to this format, unlike the usual 11, there are 5 players on each side, 4 players and a goalkeeper. The game runs for a total of 45 minutes, divided into 3 quarters of 15 minutes, with an interval of 2 minutes between the quarters.The game is played, like modern hockey, on a blue astroturf, with a yellow ball. It can be rightly nicknamed as the 'T20 of international hockey.'
Field Hockey has been a part of the Youth Olympics since the inaugural edition at Singapore. However, Hockey 5s has been initiated only in the second edition, held at Nanjing, China in 2014. As of now, Australia is the defending champion, undefeated in both the editions of the Youth Olympics.
India's stint at Hockey 5s & Youth Olympics:-
Though counted as the Asian powerhouse and one of the most successful field hockey teams, India is yet to register their debut appearance at the Youth Olympics. The boys neither managed to make it in the traditional 70-minute edition held at Singapore 2010 nor for the debut Hockey 5s edition held at Nanjing 2014, owing to their miserable performance in both the Asian qualifiers held for the same.
The junior teams were not exactly the best in the world and had finished a lowly 10th at the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup in 2013.However, this time around, India is a far cry from those miserable days and is raring to go for high octane action at the Buenos Aires edition.
Can India do it this time?
Both the teams [men's and women's] are participating in the Asian qualifiers, which start from 25th of April, and will be held at Bangkok, Thailand. The junior boys' team, who are high on their recent success at the Under 16 Asia Cup as well as the Junior Hockey World Cup 2016, are aiming for a place in the finals, which shall guarantee them a berth at the Youth Olympics.
But the question still remains: Can Indian hockey make the cut to the upcoming Youth Olympics? Though on paper, statistics have never had the final say in any tournament but going by the spirits of the Indian team, we can hope for the best.
If India manages to make the cut, it has a golden chance to do what even Pakistan couldn't do in the inaugural edition of the Youth Olympics, i.e. become the first team from Asia to win the boys' title at the Youth Olympics. This is also a golden chance for their able coach, ex-hockey star Jude Felix to give to the nation what he couldn't give himself as a player.
Interestingly, the senior men's hockey team had made their debut only in the fourth edition held at Amsterdam in 1928 and had won a gold medal on their very debut. If the Indian boys manage to create the same miracle, they shall be immortalized in the history of Indian hockey.
On the other hand, the girls' team will be looking to create a mark, if they make the cut for the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics. Unlike their senior counterparts, the junior girls have a solitary bronze medal at the Junior Women's World Cup 2013 to their credit. If they do create a good impression here, it will echo throughout the arena of Indian hockey for years. This is precisely what their coaches, ex Indian stars Baljeet Singh and Asunta Lakra are aiming for.
To the delight of the Indian boys' team, their captain, Vivek Sagar Prasad, is also a regular in the Indian men's team and has represented India at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. With such huge experience, he is sure to give India a significant lead in the Asian qualifiers itself. The same goes for the women's team, who has Lalremsiami, an essential part of the senior women's team in the same.
Following is the initial group schedule for both the teams going for the Asian qualifiers:-
- 25 April - India vs. Thailand
- 26 April - India vs. Japan
- 27 April - India vs. Hong Kong and India vs. South Korea
- 25 April - India vs. Singapore
- 26 April - India vs. South Korea
- 27 April - India vs. Thailand
Following is the team roster for the Asian qualifiers of the Youth Olympics:-
- Goalkeepers:- Prashant Kumar Chauhan
- Defenders:- Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem [Vice Captain], Sanjay
- Midfielders:- Vivek Sagar Prasad [Captain], Shivam Anand, Rahul Kumar Rajbhar, Yashdeep Siwach
- Forwards:- Mohammad Alishan, Maninder Singh
- Coaches:- Jude Felix Sebastian and B J Kariappa
- Goalkeepers:- Bichu Devi Kharibam
- Defenders:- Salima Tete [Captain], Ishika Chaudhary
- Midfielders:- Baljeet Kaur, Chetna
- Forwards:- Sangita Kumar, Mumtaz Khan, Deepika Jr., Lalremsiami [Vice Captain]
- Coaches:- Baljeet Singh & Asunta Lakra