Colin Batch: Our preparations have been good

With a new set of players since the retirement of several seniors, Australian coach Colin Batch is hopeful of a good outing in the Hockey World League Finals next month in Bhubaneswar.

"It is a great challenge and exciting playing in India," says Colin Batch.   -  Getty Images

As the defending champion and on a high after retaining the Oceania Cup recently for an unprecedented 10th straight time, Australia would be high among favourites for the Hockey World League Finals next month.

This, despite a disappointing outing at the Rio Olympics last year that saw the Kookaburras go out in the quarterfinals stage, the first time the team failed to make the semifinal since 1980. With a new set of players since the retirement of several seniors, coach Colin Batch is hopeful of a good outing in Bhubaneswar. The team would begin its campaign against host India.

“The preparations have been good. We played a four-nation tournament with Pakistan, Japan and New Zealand and had some good matches there. Yes, it is a challenge to replace some of the seniors who are no longer with us and have been a long time with the Kookaburras. The most important thing has been to get combinations right and the experience at this level,” Batch told Sportstar on Friday, soon after the announcement of the 18-member Australian squad for the event. The World No. 2 side would be led by veteran Mark Knowles.

“This is a good opportunity to see how we compete and play against European teams and to test where we are at after a lot of changes this year. We haven’t played against Argentina and Holland for a while and we haven’t played Germany this year either, so this is a valuable tournament for us,” the 59-year old said.

Having taken over in January this year after four years with New Zealand and two months after signing a four-year extension, Batch was keen his players got used to the atmosphere in India soon. “It is a great challenge and exciting playing in India, there is lots of noise and spectators around. I imagine it would be similar when we play the first game and the players are excited to experience that,” Batch said adding that with new staff in its corner, the Indian team was also in a similar situation and he expected a few changes in personnel and structure.

Besides India and Australia, England and Germany are the other teams in Pool B while World No. 1 Argentina, Belgium, Holland and Spain are in Pool A. “We are a bunch of young and talented players and it’s no different to any other tournament where we go to perform to our best. But that would be the target for every team so there will be pressure to perform. This one is obviously important and will help us somewhat in our preparations and future selections for the Commonwealth Games,” Batch concluded.

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