Azlan Shah Cup: Indian men’s team eyes strong start

India begin its campaign against Japan on March 23 and will be looking to continue its winning form against the side.

“Each step is important and the objective will be to ensure that we come out victorious in all our matches,” said Manpreet Singh.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

The Indian men’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh feels the team has learnt its lessons from the World Cup debacle last year and is geared up for a positive start to the season at the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Speaking to the media before leaving for Ipoh on Sunday night, Manpreet said the side has prepared itself for the hot and humid weather by having noon practice sessions at the national camp in Bengaluru.

ROAD| Hockey India to conduct online test for umpires and technical officials

“We are quite eager to make a positive start as it will give us the right momentum ahead of the FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019. We have worked really hard in the camp, often training at noon to get used to playing in the hot and humid weather conditions,” Manpreet said.

India begins its campaign against Japan on March 23 and will be looking to continue its winning form against the side, which it last met during the Hero Asian Champions Trophy last year.

“We will be playing the Asian Games Champion Japan in the opening match and we will have to be at our best to beat them. We have a lot of youngsters in the team, it will be a great test for them and us as a unit,” stated Manpreet who will have Surender Kumar as his deputy.

The Indian team will play its second game against Korea on March 24 while it takes on nemesis and Asian Games silver-medallist Malaysia on March 26.

READ| Hockey Series Finals under the scanner amid Pakistan tensions

“Though we are the highest ranked team in the tournament, we cannot get ahead of ourselves and have to take one match at a time rather than thinking directly about the Final as we have some tough encounters, to begin with.

“Each step is important and the objective will be to ensure that we come out victorious in all our matches,” he said.

Manpreet believes that the 2018 Odisha World Cup, in which the team lost in the quarterfinals, was a major learning step and many players, who have been given a chance, are in a better position to handle pressure situations.

“The World Cup was great learning for all of us. Though we weren’t able to go beyond the quarterfinal, I believe the world took note of the immense potential of a young team who played with all their heart.

“At this camp, we have looked back at our mistakes and have also tried to develop some new combinations that can help us improve our game. We are confident of our chances of winning but don’t want to get complacent,” he said.