Under Marijne, India hockey team seeks fresh start in Asia Cup

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.

Sjoerd Marijne was the head coach of the Indian women’s team before the reschuffle.   -  AFP

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 is the top-ranked side in Asia and over the past few years, it is the only Asian team to have claimed medals at global tournaments. However, it needs to bring its top game to every match to ensure it tops Pool A which will also see Bangladesh and Pakistan in the fray.

It will also have to bring some technical and tactical adjustments to its 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.

“The opening match of the tournament is always challenging because we need to get over the early nervousness and find our rhythm.”

India played Japan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year where it beat 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.

“We have seen how they play and they are definitely one of the fastest improving sides in Asia. We can never take Japan to be an easy team,” said Manpreet.

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.

India will face Bangladesh on October 13. The team will play its third and final league match against arch rival Pakistan on October 15.