The Indian men’s hockey team will seek a fresh start under new chief coach Sjoerd Marijne as it opens the Hero Asia Cup campaign against Japan at the Maulana Bhashani National Stadium here on Wednesday.
Dutchman Marijne, who has spent around 20 days with the men’s squad, replaced sacked Roelant Oltmans last month. Marijne’s new wards enter an important cycle with major tournaments coming up in the next 15 months including the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in December, Commonwealth Games in April followed by the Asian Games and the 2018 World Cup.
This cycle begins with the Asia Cup, in which the Indians are favourites. India are the top-ranked side in Asia and over the past few years, they are the only Asian team to have claimed medals at global tournaments.
However, they need to bring their top game to every match to ensure they top Pool A which will also see Bangladesh and Pakistan in the fray.
They will also have to bring some technical and tactical adjustments to their game according to the ideas of Marijne.
We have had two good practice sessions on the main pitch and even played a practice match against Oman. The team is upbeat and ready for the first challenge,’ captain Manpreet Singh said.
India played Japan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year where they beat them 4-3. It’s Japan’s ability to play fast-paced hockey with good attack that makes it an unpredictable team.
At the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup they set up a shocking 3-2 win over World No.2 Australia.
India’s defence line-up is inexperienced with Rupinder Pal Singh and Kothajit Singh missing out due to injuries. The defence line-up has young players in Dipsan Tirkey, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and returning Amit Rohidas.
Captain Manpreet feels that Rohidas, who is making his comeback after a couple of years, will make the most of his opportunities.
Manpreet, alongside S.K. Uthappa and Sardar Singh will be key midfielders, while S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh are the key forwards.
India will face Bangladesh on October 13. The team will play their third and final league match against arch foes Pakistan on October 15.
Japanese coach Siegfried Aikman minced no words when he said that every team stands a chance to make the final in this tournament.
Akash Anil Chikte, Suraj Karkera
Dipsan Tirkey, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar
S.K. Uthappa, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh, Sumit
S.V. Sunil (Vice Captain), Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh, Satbir Singh.