The FIH 2013 Junior Hockey World Cup will be played in the national capital at Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium from 6th to 15th of December. Not only Indian fans, but also many others are hoping for some sensational stick work. Germany is the traditional powerhouse with 5 titles. They are also the current champion.
In welcome departure from the boring tradition of team announcement from press release, the team was announced at a gala event at Hotel Lalit in Delhi.
Manpreet Singh will lead the Indian squad. Manpreet has already played 85 internationals for the country. Along with him are 9 others who are rubbing shoulders with the seniors for long time. Ramandeep Singh, Mandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh (both are back and fit after long spell of injury) in the forward line have huge experience. In the defence, Kothajit Singh, Gurjinder Singh and Amit Rohidas have been part of seniors for quite some time. Both Harjot Singh and Sushant Tirkey are the best men under the bar.
The sour point was finding the name of Affan Yousuf, Lalit Upadhyay and Gurmail Singh on the standby list. ‘Bhopal Baadshah’ Yousuf was the vice-captain of Johor Cup Tournament. His club mate Lalit was the Emerging player of the World Series of Hockey. Gurmail has been pretty regular with the senior team. These boys deserve ample time on the Astroturf.
Coach Gregg Clark is very hopefull from the team and he rally has laboured hard for the claim. The South African is in India for about a year. He was coach of HIL winning team of Ranchi Rhinos. Junior team played a three match series in the Netherlands earlier this year. Their report card was 1-1-1. Upon his insistence, the young boys were given the exposure at the 3rd edition of Asian Champions Trophy. Though they finished lowly 5th, but they played some superb hockey against eventual winner and traditional rival Pakistan. They lost the 9 goal thriller by 1 goal difference in the end. This Japanese investment for the future can give immediate returns at Delhi.
India is in Pool C with Netherlands, Canada and Korea. The team will open their campaign against strong oranges on the opening day. Their next game will be on the following day with Maples. Korea will be their last hurdle in group phase on 10th. All Indian matches will begin at 2000 Hrs. Classification matches, Quarter finals, Semi finals and Finals will follow the procedure.
Indian team was runners up in Milton Keynes in 97. Their only moment of glory has come in 2001 when they thrashed Argentina 6-1 in Hobert, Australia. In 2005 they lost the 3rd place playoff to Spain in penalty stroke. In 2009 edition, they sunk to 9th. This is the perfect time to turn the tables.
Manpreet’s camaraderie with Amritsar boy Ramandeep will pose constant headache for the oppositions. Mandeep is a ferocious predator. Akashdeep is constant supplier of quality passes. Talwinder showed a lot of hopes with his run. Satbir Singh and Harjeet Singh have leant a lot from HIL.
The worry of the junior squad is the conversion of penalty corners. Drag flicker Amit Rohidas is no way near his ‘Gurus’ Sandeep Singh and Raghunath. This is the department which demands much improvement.
A podium finish here could supply much needed tonic for the future of Indian Hockey. They swords are unsheathed. So, let the war begin.