The Indian junior hockey team’s participation in the Australian Hockey League and the four-nation International Junior Hockey Tournament in Valencia were expected to put the outfit in a good stead ahead of the World Cup at home in November. After the performances there – fourth in AHL and winners in Valencia – it seems to have done exactly the same.
“It’s pleasing to see the way the team has performed,” said coach Harendra Singh. “They beat Germany, the World Champions, twice (3-1 and 5-2). They are not afraid on the pitch. Mentally and physically, this team is ready to take on any team in the world.”
“For us the countdown [to the World Cup] has begun and the excitement can be seen in everybody's face. But we need to control our emotions. Yes, there’s a lot of expectation but I can assure you that we’ll not let down our country.”
Harendra particularly seemed impressed by the improvement in his team’s structure and sought to highlight how such tours outside Asia were important. “In the past, the junior teams used to tour only inside Asia. That restricted their growth. Now the calendar has been planned in a systematic way. If you are to be the best in the world, then you need to beat the best and these tours help in achieving that.”
The experience gathered by Harmanpreet Singh and Harjeet Singh after having making a seamless transition from the junior to the senior team helped, Harendra said.
“When you play for the senior team and then return to the junior set up, your confidence and energy levels are high. It helps the side when things aren’t going your way.”
Varun Kumar, who was the top-scorer in Valencia and prior to that had also had a fine outing in the Australian Hockey League, came in for praise too.
"The one thing I like about him is his focus. He has the confidence, doesn’t get pressured and enjoys the game. The beauty of this team is that they follow the instructions and keep things simple. They play without any pressure or fear.”
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