Hockey World Cup 2018: A chance for India to prove itself

Hockey World Cup 2018 is as much about Indian hockey attempting to showcase its rising power and position in world hockey as about the FIH wanting to spread the game.

India is hosting its second World Cup in eight years.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Hosting its second World Cup in eight years, the 2018 edition is as much about Indian hockey attempting to showcase its rising power and position in world hockey as about the International Hockey Federation (FIH) wanting to spread the game.

While the 2018 edition will be the first time the World Cup will be a massive 16-team event, for the host, it is a chance to prove it really belongs in the top echelons of the sport. Ranked fifth in the world and the only Asian team in the top 10 at the moment, India’s hopes will be as much on the shoulders of the final 16 selected to represent the country on the field as the 15,000-odd crowd expected to turn out in capacity at the revamped Kalinga Stadium.

With the World Cup and the Olympics being the two most important tournaments in the hockey calendar, India has had contrasting fortunes in them over years. It has won eight Olympic gold medals, but the country has managed to win the World Cup only once, way back in 1975, the third edition of the tournament, after finishing third and second in the previous two editions, respectively.

That 2-1 victory against arch-rivals Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur 43 years ago has faded into history now; even current national coach Harendra Singh was not in his teens then. The focus for the team now is the future and a dream of reclaiming the top spot. The junior team’s triumph on home soil two years ago provided renewed optimism, with quite a few of the players now part of the senior side.

A steady stream of medals at major competitions — bronze at the 2015 and 2017 Hockey World League Finals, silver at the Champions Trophy in 2016 and 2018 — has given the team the confidence that it can challenge the best.

Squad: P. R. Sreejesh , Krishan Bahadur Pathak , Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Sumit, Akashdeep Singh , Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Simranjeet Singh.