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Their next assignment is the Hockey Men’s Champions Trophy in Netherlands which starts from June 23. Captain and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh is positive of India’s chances at the event saying the team is working on papering over the cracks and should they click as a unit they have in it them to go all the way and return home with gold medal. They are currently slugging it out in at the Sports Authority of India’s Bengaluru Campus.
The Indian team’s inefficiency in converting field goals despite improved circle penetrations have been a concern. Sreejesh reveals that the team is paying special attention in this area over the past two weeks at the camp. “We have paid a lot of attention to the positioning of forwards in the striking circle, Sreejesh said. “Coach has not just drawn out the position chart for the strikers and explained in theory, but has also walked them through the positioning to ensure they don’t repeat the mistakes made at 2018 CWG because of which we missed out on scoring critical goals. Front-line defence is also one of the key areas we have paid extra attention to.”
After the 18-member national squad was announced last week, the Indian team under chief coach Harendra has upped the ante knowing well that the Champions Trophy in Netherlands, with world’s top teams including Olympic Champions Argentina, defending World Champions Australia, world no.3 Belgium, hosts Netherlands and Pakistan in fray for the title, offers the right platform to test themselves ahead of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar later this year.
At the camp in Bengaluru, the focus has remained on maintaining the right structure with emphasis on team’s on-field communication, following basics to keep ball possession, front-line defence, counter control and penalty corner defending.
With just ten days remaining before the team leaves for the Netherlands on 18 June, Sreejesh placed his full confidence in the squad saying they can win the tournament. “We have a good team balance with experience and youth. Our preparations have been earnest and the team certainly has the calibre to finish on top provided we play our A-game and not make silly mistakes and lose out on scoring opportunities. This is the best chance to see where we stand against top teams in the world before the World Cup and we need to make this opportunity count,” the 30-year-old said.
Vice-captain Chinglensana Singh said the team has gotten over their forgettable performance at the CWG. “The team has moved on from the poor performance at the Commonwealth Games,” Chinglensana said. “At this camp, one of the main focus is on team’s on-field communication and re-instilling the team’s belief that we have it in us to go for the gold. Our psychology sessions have been critical in making us believe in the team goal and chief coach has prepared a 20-point agenda which we read every day ahead of training sessions to remind ourselves of our aim ahead of the tournament,” he said.
India begin their Champions Trophy campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 23.