By Sonu Vivek
Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], November 20 (ANI): Harmanpreet Singh, the captain of the national hockey team labelled Australia as the best team to play against as part of their preparations, heading into the World Cup in January 2023.
Calling the series an ideal preparation, the captain said that the Aussie team is the best and playing against them will help in their preparation for the FIH 2023 World Cup to be played in India. He also called the series an opportunity to test the strategies that they have in mind.
"One of the best teams to play with before the World Cup. Good opportunity to try new things. What works for us and what does not," Harmanpreet Singh said talking exclusively to ANI.
India is scheduled to play a five-match Test series from November 26 to December 4 against Australia in Adelaide.
This will be the Indian men's hockey team's first trip since visiting Argentina last year, and its first visit to Australia since May 2019.
The Australian men's hockey team is ranked first in the world, while India is placed fifth. This will be their first match since the Commonwealth Games 2022 final, which Australia won.
Talking about the previously deployed strategy against the Australian team and the fresh strategy that the team will look to apply he said, "We usually play full press and fifty, but we are trying 65 and man-to-man play, focusing on where we create positions to steal the ball from them. Overall we can't change too many things heading into the World Cup."
Harmanpreet,26, has been crucial in team India's recent success in the Tokyo Olympics and Commonwealth Games and was awarded for his performance as he was named the team's captain.
He talked about their goal in the coming major tournaments and stated that the team is taking one game at a time, with focus on the World Cup that will be played in India.
"We often talk about the World Cup in our team and our mindset is that even a practice match can help us get better. All matches before the World Cup are important. We have our focus on the World Cup and then the Asia Cup after which comes the Olympics. We want to perform step by step in major tournaments. Since World Cup is in India, we want to make India proud," expressed the drag-flicker.
The captain reflected on the recent matches played by India in the recently concluded FIH Pro League and mentioned the learnings from it.
He said that starting minutes of the game are important as it gives the opportunity to score and keep the scoreboard pressure on the opponent.
"Starting five minutes are crucial. It gives the opportunity to convert the starting time. We chased in those games. We need to keep the scoreboard pressure on the opponent. Avoiding cards is important. To hold the game when in the lead is important. Outside tackling, 3-D tackling is one thing we are working on as we need to play Spain in World Cup," shared Harmanpreet.
He talked about the pressure of playing in the crucial position of a drag-flicker and expressed that the teammates are there to motivate him while his focus is to breach the 25-yard area of the opponent, resulting in successful attacks for his team.
"Any team's drag-flicker focus is to breach the 25 m mark regularly and not let the attack in vain. We try to get a penalty corner, shot on goal or score a field goal. Whenever we get a chance for a penalty corner, we focus that the inject and stop is good and then our responsibility comes to finish it. We are successful at times and unsuccessful at times as the opponent is also reading us and planning accordingly.
"They block the left side at times and create a deadlock, then we have to use a variation. Different strategies. There's not a lot of pressure as I have my teammates who motivate me. I just focus on flicking the ball into the goalpost," the captain said.
India is placed in group D of the FIH World Cup and which features Spain, England and Wales. The captain talked about the teams present in the group while mentioning that each team is good and will not be easy to overcome.
"No team is easy, and no team gives easy matches. We see goals in a span of seconds, and just read the situation and play and apply the skills. Till the last whistle, we need to focus," he said.
India won the Bronze medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and also clinched the silver medal in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
With the World Cup to be played in India from January 13 to 29 in Odisha, the Indian team will look to give their best and grab a podium finish. (ANI)