New Delhi, Feb 15: India hockey captain Sardar Singh Friday said the Hero Hockey World League Round 2, starting here Monday, will be a good exposure for the youngsters in the team.
India are the highest-ranked team in the six-team tournament, that also has China, Ireland, Bangladesh, Fiji and Oman. The tournament will be played here Feb 18-26.
The top two teams qualify for the third round of the Hockey World League. The World League is a qualification tournament for the 2014 FIH World Cup in Hague, the Netherlands.
Sardar asked his players not to take any of the teams lightly and said the exposure in the recently concluded Hockey India League (HIL) will stand in good stead for the boys.
“In modern day hockey, we can't take any team lightly. We can't consider China easy and Ireland is a tricky side. If we play our normal hockey and give 100 per cent we should win easily,” said Sardar on the sidelines of a Hockey India (HI) programme to announce Cairns India as its co-sponsor.
Cairn India, the world's fastest growing energy company, has signed a multi-crore three-year deal with Hockey India as a co-sponsor.
Sardar said the boys are tired after the HIL but said but the time the World League starts they would be fit and ready to fire.
“The League has helped the boys a lot. The sheer experience of playing and sharing the dressing room with some top foreign players will really help the boys. We have learnt a lot from the Australians and the Germans during the HIL. I think the boys will be motivated to do well,” said the star forward.
Sardar feels youngsters like Malak Singh and Mandeep Singh deserve a place in the squad after their good performance in the league.
“We needed players like Mandeep and Malak in the team and it is because of the HIL they came into limelight,” Sardar said.
The India captain, however, was concerned about the performance of his goalkeepers P.R. Sreejesh and P.T. Rao, who were unimpressive in the HIL. Sardar, however, hoped that this goalkeepers will bounce back to form.
“Obviously, goalkeeping is a concern because Sreejesh and Rao did not have a very good HIL. But ups and downs are part and parcel of a player's life.
“I feel Sreejesh is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It was a matter of time he gets his form back. I feel it's just about regaining their self-confidence back as soon as possible,” Sardar said on the sidelines of a progamme announcing energy company Cairn India's association with Indian hockey,” he said.
If the men's team is an overwhelming favourite to win the round 2, the women's team have a tough task at hand because they are seeded second behind Japan in their group. Russia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Fiji are the other participating nations in the women's event.
But skipper Ritu Rani remained confident.
“Our preparation is going very well. For the last one month the entire team is together. We have a relatively young team.
“In trainings, we have been focussing mainly on penalty corners and scoring as many goals as possible. We are also working on conceding less penalty corners to the opposition teams,” Rani said.
“Japan is ahead of us in rankings so they will be a tough opponent. But our coach (Neil Hawgood) has been working very hard with us and it is now up to us to implement his strategies on the field,” she added.