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Indian Men’s Hockey Chief Coach Graham Reid expressed satisfaction following his team’s successful outing in Europe where they remained unbeaten. The two-week tour was India’s first assignment since 2020, a year marred by the Corona Virus that disrupted normal life and restricted the team to nearly ten months of training in a bio-secure environment in SAI Centre, Bengaluru. 

“I’m pretty happy with the performance; I’m very happy with the way the tour was — from point of view of getting some international competition. That was really important,” expressed Reid. 

In the four-match tour, India secured a 6-1 win and 1-1 draw against Germany in Krefeld. They followed this up with a 1-1 draw and 3-2 win against Great Britain in Antwerp, Belgium. The experience, Reid feels will be critical in their lead up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. “We go back to Bengaluru from here and will be training there for a few weeks before we set out on another tour of our FIH Pro League matches in Argentina. I believe the next few months leading up to Tokyo is going to be busy for us with competition and some training in between where we will work on the things we need to. The Olympic year has well and truly started now for us and we need to accelerate our learnings,” he said. 

While the team will analyze each game against Germany and Great Britain in detail once they regroup in Bengaluru this week, Reid feels there were plenty of take-aways from the tour. He said, “Our performances against Germany was mixed. It was pretty good beating them 6-1, we took them by surprise and made good use of the opportunities, but we let too many PCs in.” 

“The second game saw better defensive efforts from us. The 3rd against GB was OK. It was a bit colder in Antwerp, different pitch and perhaps we didn’t play as well as we should have. But the last game (where India beat GB 3-2) was first-class! We led most of the game, came back twice from a stalemate, scored in the last few minutes which is a really important thing to get over.”

The Chief Coach also pointed out the team’s niggles that need to be addressed when they return to the training pitch in SAI, Bengaluru. “We will go over the data from this tour once we return to SAI, Bengaluru but the first things that require attention is: making sure we tighten our defence. We allow them (opponents) to come back in the middle (of the game) a bit too much. The last match was a little bit better. We are starting to make some ground on that.”

“We are getting into the 25-mark a lot, we found that during our FIH Pro League matches too but we need to get better returns from our 25 entries. Covert them into circle entries, goal shots, and PCs. We have tried some different things here in Europe. Some things worked, some didn’t. Overall, I am quite happy,” stated Reid.

Representational photo

The 11th Hockey India Sub Junior Women National Championship 2021, to be held from March 10 to 18, will kick-start India’s much-awaited domestic hockey season. The tournament is being held in Simdega district, Jharkhand for the first time. 

Holders Hockey Haryana are among the favourites to win the title. They had lifted the title in 2019 following a thrilling final against Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy. Hockey Jharkhand, who are in Pool B, and Hockey Odisha in Pool C are also expected to go far in the 11th Hockey India Sub Junior Women National Championship 2021. Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, meanwhile, will be looking to go one better than they did in 2019. 

Hockey Haryana, who are in Pool A along with Hockey Uttarakhand and Hockey Rajasthan, were upbeat about their chances of retaining the trophy. Kuldeep Siwach, Coach, Hockey Haryana said: “We had a memorable outing last time (in 2019). The tournament was held in Haryana and the girls rose to the occasion to perform exceedingly well. So many players made a mark, including forward Deepika, who currently plays for the Indian Junior Women’s Team. We are confident of putting up a good show once again. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, training was challenging but we have come well prepared thanks to the support shown by Hockey Haryana and Hockey India.”

Hockey Haryana Skipper Nidhi expressed excitement ahead of the tournament. She said, “I am so glad to be back playing with my teammates after a long gap. The circumstances were challenging to train due to the Covid-19 restrictions but in recent months, that has changed, and we feel well prepared for the 11th Hockey India Sub Junior Women National Championship 2021. I am proud to be representing Haryana and we are confident of winning Gold again.”

Total 22 teams, with over 400 players as well as coaching and support staff, will be in Simdega for the prestigious tournament which will be closely watched by Hockey India national selectors. After five days of pool matches, the quarterfinals will be played on March 15. The semi-finals and the final will be held on March 17 and 18 respectively.

Apart from several SOPs laid out by Hockey India, all athletes and officials need to have the Aaroya Setu app on their devices. They must also follow physical distancing measures at all locations, except athletes on the field. Hockey Jharkhand have also appointed Dr Vivek Kishore and Dr Pankaj Kumar as Hygiene Officers who will be present at the venue to monitor the participants’ well-being.

The district of Simdega, which has produced several great talents through the years, has been given the nod to host the event as a part of Hockey India’s commitment towards spreading the game to every pocket in the country.

Indian Men’s Hockey Team ended their Tour of Europe with a splendid 3-2 win against Great Britain here on Monday. Harmanpreet Singh’s goal in the very first minute and double goals by Mandeep Singh in the 28th and 59th minute helped India remain undefeated on the tour. 

For Great Britain, James Gall (20′) and striker Adam Forsyth (55′) scored. In their previous match, India’s Simranjeet Singh had scored a late goal to hold Great Britain to a 1-1 draw and against Germany, the PR Sreejesh-led side had secured a 6-1 win and a 1-1 draw respectively. 
In today’s match, India started off aggressively and earned themselves a PC in the very first minute of the game.

The opportunity was duly converted by India’s Vice Skipper Harmanpreet Singh to give his side an early lead. Though Great Britain replied to the setback with a structured attack that helped them make a foray into the striking circle, a goal was denied by the alert Indian goalkeeper Krishan B Pathak. The early advantage helped the Indian Men maintain pressure on their opponents, ending the first quarter with a 1-0 lead. 

Great Britain drew parity in the 20th minute through midfielder James Gall’s field goal. The much-needed equaliser helped his team gain the right momentum. Putting India under pressure, GB earned themselves a PC, but their attempt was derailed by a brilliant save by India Skipper PR Sreejesh. India’s moment to regain the lead came in the 28th minute when forward Mandeep Singh successfully converted the PC on a rebound.
Ahead by a goal, India rallied to extend the lead further with aggressive attack in the third quarter. Though they fetched a PC in the early minute of that quarter and even made as many as five circle entries, they were denied each time. India’s defence, however, remained resolute as they held on to the 2-1 lead. 

Though India dominated the proceedings at the start of the fourth quarter, a quick turnaround saw Great Britain grabbing the opportunity as Alan Forsyth scored an equalizer in the 55th minute. The last few minutes was a battle of nerves as both teams lived up to the billing, but it was Mandeep who rose to the occasion as his late strike help India cap off their first assignment of 2021 with a 3-2 win against Great Britain.

The Indian Women’s Hockey Team once again impressed in defence but couldn’t stop Germany from winning their third consecutive game in the four-match series in Dusseldorf on Monday. World No 3 Germany won by a 2-0 margin through goals from Sonja Zimmermann (26’) and Franzisca Hauke (42’).

Encouraged by their robust defensive display in the second game of the series, the Indian side continued to frustrate the German attackers. The hosts were unable to create any early momentum and had a penalty corner saved in the first quarter. While Germany pushed forward to break the deadlock, the Indian backline stood firm yet again. Germany were awarded a PC early into the second quarter but still couldn’t find a way past Indian Women’s Hockey Team’s defence. The team managed to keep out three PCs in the previous game too.

Germany ended India’s resistance in form of a goal from the third PC. This time, defender Zimmermann made no mistake as the Word No 3 side started the third quarter with a lead. Germany doubled their advantage shortly before the end of the third quarter with seasoned midfielder Hauke getting on the scoresheet. The German side held on to complete their third successive win.

The Indian Women’s Hockey Team will take on Germany in their fourth match on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 1630 hrs IST.

Goalkeeper Bichu Devi Kharibam’s career has been on a steep rise since making her breakthrough with eye-catching displays in the 2018 Youth Olympics, a tournament where India clinched the historic Silver medal. In the following year, she was named ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ in the 4 Nations Junior Women Invitational in Dublin and was fast-tracked to the senior squad.

Bichu now has to compete with seasoned campaigners such as Savita Punia and Rajani Etimarpu for a spot in the Indian team. But the 20-year-old is calm about her role with the senior team and is relishing training alongside her seniors.

“Savita didi and Rajani didi help me a lot,” Bichu said. “I approach them with my doubts and are more than happy to help me out. Even they ask me about their weaknesses, and how they can go about correcting them despite me being new at the senior level. They treat me like a friend…or like a sister. They’ve given me a lot of love and I respect them a lot.”

Part of the Core Probable Group that is training for the Olympic Games, Bichu understands this is a great opportunity for her to make an impression and imbibe the qualities it takes to be a standout goalkeeper. 

“I get really excited just thinking about the Olympics. Because it’s such a big tournament, I have to work harder. I’m trying to absorb all the advice my seniors and coaches have been giving me,” she stated.

The Manipuri earned some much-needed game time during the team’s tour of Argentina last month. India didn’t get a win against the world No 2 side but were praised for the resilience and character they showed in each of the matches. 

“I was delighted to get back on the pitch while playing against Argentina,” Bichu reflected on her team’s first tour after more than a year. “We played with a lot of spirit and passion. I was nervous during the first game, playing after such a long gap. But it got better as time progressed.

“Previously, we used to be beaten by huge margins against Argentina, but I think, our defence held strong throughout the tour. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there,” she added.

For young Bichu, aspiring to play at the Tokyo Olympics is just the beginning. She has mapped out her plans for the future. “I want to play in all of them – Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and as many Olympic Games possible,” she said brimming with determination.

Dinachandra Singh.

With their focused pinned on the Junior Men’s Asia Cup, India Colts began training today following a week-long quarantine. The 37-member Junior Men’s Core Group reported to SAI, Bengaluru on 6 February 2021 and underwent mandatory quarantine followed by a RTPCR swab test before resuming training from Saturday.  

The Core Group will vie to make the most of the National Coaching Camp which concludes on 1 May 2021. “The focus of this camp will be to improve our fitness, speed and create some match-scenarios to be best prepared for the Junior Men’s Asia Cup,” expressed Coach BJ Kariappa.  

“Since the Senior Men’s Core group is also housed in the same campus, we want to make most of their presence here and will plan a few sessions where the Junior players can get some match-practice against them,” he added.  

The Junior Men’s Core Probable list includes goalkeepers Pawan, Prasant Kumar Chauhan and Sahil Kumar Nayak while the defenders called-up are Sanjay, Cyril Lugun, Nabin Kujur, Sunil Jojo, Dinachandra Singh Moirangthem, Niraj Kumar Waribam, Shardanand Tiwari and Abhishek Lakra.  

The midfielders selected for the National Camp includes Gregory Xess, Sukhman Singh, Maninder Singh, Gopi Kumar Sonkar, Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem, Akashdeep Singh, Yashdeep Siwach, Ankit Pal, Vishnu Kant Singh, Mareeswaran Sakthivel, Surya NM, Darshan Vibhav Gawkar and Gurmukh Singh. Among forwards Amandeep, Rahul Kumar Rajbhar, Boby Singh Dhami, Arshdeep Singh, Shivam Anand, Sudeep Chirmako, Mohd Sadiq, Uttam Singh, S Karthi, Manjeet, Diljeet Singh, Araijeet Singh Hundal and Prabhjot Singh have been called-up for the camp. 

“With the mandatory quarantine period completed, we have begun training from today onwards and the players are all upbeat to make the most of this National Coaching Camp,” Kariappa said. 

Junior Men’s Core Probable List:  

Goalkeepers:  

  1. Pawan (Hockey Haryana)  
  2. Prasant Kumar Chauhan (Uttar Pradesh Hockey) 
  3. Sahil Kumar Nayak (Hockey Odisha)  

Defenders: 

  1. Sanjay (Hockey Chandigarh)  
  2. Cyril Lugun (Hockey Odisha)  
  3. Nabin Kujur (Hockey Odisha)  
  4. Sunil Jojo (Hockey Odisha)  
  5. Dinachandra Singh Moirangthem (Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy)  
  6. Niraj Kumar Waribam (Manipur Hockey)  
  7. Shardanand Tiwari (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  8. Abhishek Lakra (Hockey Odisha)

Midfielders: 

  1. Gregory Xess (Hockey Odisha) 
  2. Sukhman Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  3. Maninder Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  4. Gopi Kumar Sonkar (Uttar Pradesh Hockey) 
  5. Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem (Manipur Hockey)  
  6. Akashdeep Singh (Hockey Punjab) 
  7. Yashdeep Siwach (Hockey Haryana) 
  8. Ankit Pal (Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy)  
  9. Vishnu Kant Singh (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  10. Mareeswaran Sakthivel (Hockey Unit Of Tamil Nadu) 
  11. Surya NM (Hockey Karnataka) 
  12. Darshan Vibhav Gawkar (Hockey Maharashtra)  
  13. Gurmukh Singh (Hockey Haryana)
     

Forwards:  

  1. Amandeep (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  2. Rahul Kumar Rajbhar (Services Sports Control Board)  
  3. Boby Singh Dhami (Hockey Haryana) 
  4. Arshdeep Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  5. Shivam Anand (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  6. Sudeep Chirmako (Hockey Odisha) 
  7. Mohd Sadiq (Hockey Maharashtra)  
  8. Uttam Singh (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  9. S Karthi (Hockey Unit Of Tamil Nadu) 
  10. Manjeet (Services Sports Control Board) 
  11. Diljeet Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  12. Araijeet Singh Hundal (Hockey Punjab) 
  13. Prabhjot Singh (Hockey Punjab) 

Indian Men’s Hockey Team Defender Surender Kumar, who has played 133 matches for the national side, expressed that the members of the Indian Men’s Hockey Core Probable Group have improved tremendously since returning to the National Coaching Camp in January. Surender added that everyone is feeling very upbeat about their respective games.

“Last year was all about maintaining our fitness and getting back to our full form, which we did very well. Once we returned to the National Coaching Camp in January this year, we wanted to up the ante and raise the level of our respective games. By working on each of our skills one by one, we have improved tremendously in the last few weeks. Everyone in the Indian Men’s Hockey Core Probable Group is feeling really great about their respective games,” said the 27-year-old.

Surender further added that a strong defence line will be the key for India’s chances of winning matches consistently in the upcoming months.

“Now that we have raised our game to a high level, we are eager and ready to perform for our country in big tournaments this year. I think a strong defence line will be the key to our chances of winning matches consistently. If we ensure that our opponents don’t get goals easily, it will help our Forwards put pressure on them and create more chances for us,” said the Defender.

Surender expressed that the Indian team has been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to train at the Sports Authority of India campus during a very difficult time for the entire world.

“It’s been a tough phase for all of us and therefore we are very thankful to Hockey India and SAI for ensuring that we have a safe environment wherein we have been able to continue our training for the Olympics. It’s been fantastic to spend most of our time at the SAI campus in the last one year and get better at our game slowly and steadily,” said the Defender.

Indian Women’s Hockey team defender Gurjit Kaur reflected on her team’s recent tour of Argentina, their first assignment in a year, which concluded earlier this month. Despite not registering a win on the tour, the Rani-led Indians went toe-to-toe against the world no 2 side. Gurjit thinks the hard-fought series made her a better player.

“It felt great to be back on the field after one whole year. I am happy with my performances too, having faced a top side,” Gurjit said. “We competed well against them. If you compare our performances over the last three-four years, the team has vastly improved, and that bodes well for us going into future tournaments,” she added. 

Getting used to the rigours of bubble life comes with its own set of challenges. The 25-year-old thanked Hockey India and Sports Authority of India for helping the players acclimatize to their new environment. 

“Of course, it was tough to get back to a competitive arena during the early part of the tour. But, I feel, as a team we adapted quickly. It is only natural to feel a little rusty when you are away from a competitive environment or so long,” Gurjit said. “Life inside the bubble wasn’t easy but thanks to SAI and Hockey India, all the arrangements were in place.”

The Indian team were defeated 2-3 and 0-2 by the senior Argentina side. However, the visitors ended on a happy note, drawing 1-1 against Las Leonas in the final game of the tour. Rani and Co also faced Argentina’s junior and B teams.  

Gurjit is now looking ahead as the clock ticks down towards the 2021 Olympics. “Personally, I am satisfied with my performances. I will be sitting down with my Coaches to assess areas where I can still improve,” she said. 

“With the Olympics coming up, this was a good test for us. We are preparing well for Tokyo and will continue to get better,” Gurjit signed off.

Indian Women’s Team forward Sharmila Devi has been proving her mettle in every opportunity she gets. Be it her first outing for the Indian Team at the Tokyo Test Event in 2019 or the FIH Olympic Qualifiers where she showed her raw talent by scoring an important goal against USA which propelled the team’s 5-1 victory in the first match.

“I played my first match for the Senior side in 2019 and ever since then, I have been getting fantastic exposure with the team and I am happy to receive these opportunities and want to make each one count,” Sharmila expressed. In India’s recent tour to Argentina, she scored twice for India in low-scoring games that proved crucial for the team against a top-quality side like Argentina who are ranked No.2 in the world.

“The Indian Team was playing against Argentina after nearly four years. The senior players who had previously played against Argentina in 2017 recalled how strong a team they are and how important it is for us to execute our plans perfectly. Though we were quite effective against them and came very close to winning, I felt we should work a lot more on converting opportunities in the circle. We were making enough and more circle entries but were unable to convert,” stated the forward highlighting the area which they will be working on when the core group returns to National Camp on 14 February 2021.

The 19-year-old from Hisar, Haryana lauded the efforts of Hockey India in ensuring the tour was well organised despite these trying circumstances due to the pandemic. She also feels this exposure in Argentina will hold in good stead as the team prepares for the prestigious Olympic Games.

“Playing in Argentina was a very different experience. The opponent was no doubt very challenging, which made this tour exciting, but the way everything was organized and playing in a bio-secure bubble was a different experience altogether. Even the hotel we stayed at took extra care in ensuring our comforts and the food was suitable to our palate which is rarely ever the case when we travel. We are very grateful to Hockey India for ensuring a safe environment for us to compete. Though we are disappointed we didn’t secure a win, the lessons from this exposure will help us prepare best for the Olympic Games,” Sharmila said.

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