Azlan Shah Cup: India To Lock Horns With AustraliaIpoh, May 7: Indian team are keen on leaving behind the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games final drubbing as they lock horns with the mighty Australia in their third match of the Sultan Azlan Shah
Ipoh, May 7: Indian team are keen on leaving behind the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games final drubbing as they lock horns with the mighty Australia in their third match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, here tomorrow.
Ahead of their next round-robin league outing tomorrow, chief coach Harendra Singh has told his players to focus on the team's game plan and the structure of their play.
Aware that the drubbing in the Commonwealth Games final may be playing on the minds of his players ahead of the Australian game, Harendra said his boys should try and keep that score-line away from their thoughts.
“That match is history now. It is something that happened in the past. We must move on and try writing a new chapter here,” the coach said asking the youngsters to emulate rookie drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh's brilliant show against Great Britain.
The victory over Great Britain has lifted the sagging spirits in the team after the dejection of squandering a two-goal advantage against South Korea on the opening day.
Outright winners of the Azlan Shah Cup in 2009 and joint champions with South Korea in 2010, India defeated Britian 3-1 yesterday after suffering a 2-3 defeat at the hands of a young Korean team in the first outing on Thursday.
Britian have brought a near full-strength team to fine-tune the squad for the London Olympic Games, while India are without several leading players and are starting their preparations for the Olympic qualifiers which will be held in New Delhi, in December.
Even Australia, who India play next, are without half a dozen members of the line-up that became the first side to win the World Cup, Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games in the same year.
Australia and India share the record of having won the Azlan Shah Cup five times each.
Injuries suffered by skipper Jamie Dwyer and ace striker Desmond Abbott have forced coach Ric Charlesworth to field a young squad.
Penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner, and key players like Mark Knowles and Eddie Ockenden are among the other Aussies missing as they are currently playing in Dutch League.
Testing the reserve strength at the Azlan Shah Cup, the only tournament where Australia failed to emerge on top of the podium last year, Charlesworth's team only managed to put it across hosts Malaysia 2-1 last night through a final-minute goal by the seasoned Jason Wilson.
Harendra feels that no one could afford to assess the Australians on basis of their form in the tournament's first outing yesterday.
“The Australian team has depth in its ranks even without several key players. It is not unusual for them to start slowly, so one must not read too much into the performance yesterday,” he said.
Australia was trailing by a goal against Malaysia, who also squandered a penalty stroke late in the second session and allowed the World champions to wriggle out of a tight spot.
“The youngsters will need to adjust to the situations and it won't be every day that the rival midfielders will allow us so much leeway, as Britain did yesterday,” said the Indian coach.
“We want to play a technically sound game. What matters for us is to play well and not just the result,” he said.
“The key is to stick to the game-plan we make, and that revolves around maintaining a sound structure throughout 70 minutes. As we are using the tournament to test some players and tactics, it's important to judge if the current pool of players have the ability to perform at a high level,” the coach said.
Harendra said he was pleased with the way the youngsters were shaping, and came in for special appreciation for young defender Rupinder Pal Singh, who he said made the most of the opportunity that came his way in the absence of ace penalty corner taker and former captain Sandeep Singh.
“Not just the goals, I appreciate the improvement he has shown in one-on-one tackling and recovering the ball,” he said.
Coming through the junior side, Rupinder had scored just one goal in 11 outings for the senior national team before this tournament.
Yesterday, he emerged as the new young star for Indian hockey with the way he composedly took the penalty corner shots and left the Britian goalkeeper guessing which side the drag-flicks were coming. PTI