India’s hockey squad will leave in the wee hours of Tuesday for the Rabobank Men's Hockey Champions Trophy, to be held in Breda, the Netherlands, from Saturday.
Led by India’s veteran goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, the team is upbeat and confident of a podium finish at the farewell edition of the prestigious tournament.
Ahead of the team’s departure from the Kempegowda International Airport here at 1.45 am, Sreejesh said in a release: “It is the final edition of Champions Trophy and I am sure every team would want to make it memorable."
“It will be a challenging tournament with back-to-back matches and winning those three points from each game will be the only thing on our minds when we arrive in Breda.”
With host, the Netherlands, Argentina, Pakistan, Belgium and defending champion Australia in the fray, the tournament serves as a litmus test for India ahead of the World Cup, later, in 2018.
“Though, right now, our immediate goal is to do well in this tournament. There is no doubt the Champions Trophy will be a reality check for us to see where we stand among the other top teams, especially ahead of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, where we want to do well as host nation,” stated Sreejesh.
The Indian team, which had won a historic silver medal in the previous edition in London in 2016, will begin its campaign against arch-rival Pakistan.
“For the Indian team, the match against Pakistan is just another game where we will be looking to win those three points. In this tournament, every single match is crucial if we want to see ourselves in the title round because the first two teams on top of the points table will play the Final,” asserted Sreejesh, who expressed confidence of a good start.
India’s forward line will see two changes in the squad that was named, earlier, in June, with Akashdeep Singh and Sumit Kumar (Jr) being rested for the tournament.
“We have brought in Simranjeet Singh in place of Akashdeep Singh. We have decided to rest Akashdeep who had a minor injury scare during our intense training camp. Though he has recovered, we did not want to risk him ahead of the Asian Games,” chief coach Harendra Singh said.
“Sumit Kumar (Jr) too has missed out an opportunity to play the important tournament due to an injury and is replaced by Lalit Kumar Upadhyay,” he added.
The 37th edition of the tournament will be its last. The FIH has announced a new portfolio from 2019, which it says “will completely change the landscape of international hockey”.
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