Doha: A confident but injury-hit India would look to rest two of their key players when they take on a lowly Oman in their third round-robin league match of the second Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Sunday. With two wins from as many matches, defending champions India started the tournament on a bright note and would be hoping to continue their winning run in the event.
India, who defeated China 4-0 and Japan 3-1 in their opening two games, undoubtedly start as favourites against Oman. But injuries to two of its key players - strikers Dharamvir Singh and S V Sunil - remains a matter of grave concern for India's chief coach Michael Nobbs.
"Dharamvir and Sunil are doubtful. Sunil has ankle injury and Dharamvir has a shoulder injury. Their x-rays are OK but they have to go for a MRI now," a worried Nobbs said on the eve of the game. While Sunil twisted his ankle in the match against Japan, Dharamvir suffered a shoulder injury in the opener against China.
Dharamvir and Sunil are key to India's strategy upfront and their unavailability means Nobbs will have to depend on young forwards to do the job in the duo's absence. India, Pakistan and Malaysia, all have won two matches each and have six points in their kitty. But the Sardar Singh-led side is presently lying in the third spot on goal aggregate.
Coach Nobbs said injuries to his players were mainly because of the turf here, which is hard. "The watering system here is not upto the mark, the turf is not uniformly wet. There are always wet and dry patches, making the players movement uneven and tough," he said.
However, the Australian sounded confident on other fronts of India's game. "Players are improving on their non-verbal communication and the team is communicating more on the field so that things settle down a bit for the younger players," he said.
Discussing about the match against Oman, Nobbs hinted that first choice goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who had recovered from his injury, will continue to guard the Indian goal. "Sreejesh has missed the Champions Trophy in Melbourne.
That is why he is being given a chance here. He will also play the game against Oman. Only after that they will see if PT Rao will get a chance or not," the coach said.
Nobbs, however, had words of advise for his backline. "The defence has been slow on releasing the ball. We are working on a few drills to correct this. Defence has otherwise been sound."
Nobbs also warned his players against complacency. "India is not taking Oman lightly. They have led first in their first two games. They play rough and tough hockey. There are no easy games in international circuit," he said.