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Hindustan Times: In Tokyo test India hockey team to look for key insights (8/17/2019)
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Hindustan Times: In Tokyo test, India hockey team to look for key insights

B Shrikant

It is a particularly crucial event for the women’s team under Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne, as they take on world No 2 Australia, world No 11 China and world No 14 Japan.

Though it is not an official ranking event, Ready, Steady Tokyo Hockey, the test event for the 2020 Olympic Games is crucial for both the Indian men and women’s teams—this is where they will be getting their first feel of the Oi Hockey stadium in Tokyo. This is also where they can take stock of what needs to be fixed before the make-or-break Olympic qualification events in October-November.

It is a particularly crucial event for the women’s team under Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne, as they take on world No 2 Australia, world No 11 China and world No 14 Japan. With India ranked 10th in the world, this is a solidly competitive outing for them. Marijne’s squad will begin their campaign against the hosts, who have already qualified for the Olympics, in the opener on Saturday.

“It is a good break for us to play the test event as we have trained very hard and also, we want to play these matches to see what information we get out of that (regarding our preparations),” Marijne said. “Though Australia is a very strong team, we can never underestimate China because they made very good progress with the Pro League and also Japan is a really good team. We will play four really high-level matches and it will be perfect for us at this moment.”

Since he took over the reins for the second time before last year’s Asian Games, Marijne has seen the team improve with every tournament.

“With every tour we have done very well. The most important thing for me is that we keep learning from our mistakes,” he says. “In Spain, we did very well and also in Malaysia, Korea and in the FIH Series Finals, which we had to win. We handled the pressure well as we played some strong teams in the Series Finals.”

Though the men’s team (ranked No 5) will take on comparatively weaker opponents in New Zealand (world No 8), Malaysia (No 12) and hosts Japan (No 16), it will still be an important event for coach Graham Reid as he has picked an experimental side, having rested regular skipper Manpreet Singh, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, defenders Birendra Lakra and Surender Kumar, besides forward Akashdeep Singh. It will be a big test for drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh as he will be leading the side and also for forward SV Sunil, who is making a comeback from an injury-enforced break.

Juniors Nilam Sanjeep Xess and Jarmanpreet Singh are likely to get a look-in, as are Ashis Topno and Shamsher Singh, on their debut tour.

“We have a great opportunity to test a younger bunch of players in the matches against Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand. They are good teams to play against and we are now adjusting well to our coach’s ideas,” the 23-year-old Harmanpreet said. “It is a huge responsibility to have been given the captaincy, and I am looking forward to stepping up and delivering for the team.” The Indian men will open their campaign against Malaysia on Saturday.

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