Vice-captain Surender Kumar has stated that the exposure Indian youngsters will get in Malaysia in the upcoming Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be of great help for them in the FIH Series Finals. The defender has also added that the Indian team will go into the tournament with an aim of winning gold.
The Indian men’s hockey team is all set to begin a fresh year from March 23 as they will play the prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia’s Ipoh. The team will miss the services of a few of the senior members as they are injured. Earlier, India named a relatively younger side for the tournament last week with Manpreet Singh continuing as the captain. However, in place Chinglensana Singh, it will be Surender as the deputy to Manpreet for the six-nation tournament.
The Indian vice-captain has underlined the fact that this will be a great opportunity for the young hockey players to perform and the management to assess how they play at the top level. He also said that the tournament will prepare the side for the upcoming FIH Series Finals which will be held in June in Bhubaneswar.
"The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has always been a great platform to test youngsters and see how they adapt to international standards. Their experience will grow ahead of the major (2020 Olympic Games qualifying) tournaments we play this year. Some of these players have done very well at the FIH Champions Trophy and 2018 Men's World Cup and carry a lot of confidence. And we have been speaking to them regularly about handling pressure especially in situations when we are one goal down or two goals down. Their good show will only be beneficial for our team in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo," said Surender, reported Hockey India.
"It will be just about the same conditions in Ipoh but maybe a bit more humid.”
“Rupinder Pal guided me a lot during our days at Hockey India League and always egged me on saying I will get a chance in the national camp if I played well in HIL. Even when I came into the camp in 2016 ahead of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup he guided me a lot in terms of handling pressure and how to carry on despite mistakes we might commit during matches," Surender recalled.
"After the Asia Cup, Coaches told me where I was going wrong and they told me my movement was a bit slow and I needed to improve my speed and tackling. I worked a lot on this last year ahead of the FIH Champions Trophy and the Indian team works with the belief that our defence needs to be solid and solid defence can win tournaments. This belief automatically brings a sense of responsibility.”
The 24-year-old from Haryana has also made it clear that the team is aiming to finish the tournament with a title but the team will take one game at a time. India will face Japan in the inaugural game of the tournament on March 23. Hosts Malaysia, Korea, Canada and Poland are the other four teams participating in the 28th edition of the prestigious annual event.
"The Goal is to win Gold but we won't be going into the tournament thinking of the Final. We will have to go step-by-step. Our first match is with Japan and then Korea, and it's important to start well," the defender explained.