New Delhi: A youthful Indian hockey team will have its first big Test post the London disaster when they play in the Champions Trophy next month. Coach Michael Nobbs wants his wards to see Olympic Champions Germany as their model and hopes they respond well to the changes in the style of play.
Ahead of the the December 1-9 Champions Trophy in Australia, they get to compete in nine-a-side Lanco International Super Series event, beginning in Perth Thursday. While the coach is saying the experienced Sandeep Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Tushar Khandkar and Shivendra Singh have been rested for the tour, the selectors are clear that they are looking at players keeping the 2016 Rio Olympics in mind.
A clear indication is that captain and star midfielder Sardar Singh at 26 is the oldest of the 18-member squad that has four players who were part of India's U-21 squad that lost the Sultan of Johor Cup final to Germany in Malaysia last week.
"It (Australia tour) is a great chance for the youngsters to perform against the top teams. The selectors have made it clear that they are looking at Rio and I will try my best to give them the team they are looking for," Nobbs told IANS before leaving with the team for his native Australia.
Indian hockey hit rock-bottom with team finishing last at the Olympics. Nobbs is keen that the trend should change and he has made certain changes to reverse the slide. He shared the changes he has made after joining the camp midway through at Patiala last month.
"I did not miss much even though I joined the team midway through the camp. We want to imbibe the qualities of German style in our play. They are now the benchmark for world hockey. They are very good at trapping the ball, so we spent a lot of time working how to trap the ball practising on grass," Nobbs told IANS.
"We worked really hard for the Olympics but the results did not show it. I hope we find some success in Australia," added Nobbs, who made a delayed return to India as the authorities took time to renew his contract.
The skipper is also looking forward to the two tournaments and playing alongside a bunch of youngsters.
"All teams are giving chances to the new crop. It is the biggest tournament after Olympics and a great opportunity for our youngsters to show up," Sardar told IANS.
Talking more about the preparations, Sardar said: "We have specifically worked on not conceding early goals in a match. Trapping has been our weak point and practising that on grass has certainly helped," he said, adding that fitness regimen has more or less been the same ever since Jason Conrath replaced David John as the trainer. The Sirsa-born player is aware of the challenges of competing in a tournament India last featured in 2005.
"The Perth tournament is not something we are focussing on. It will be good in the sense we will have good warm-up before the Champions Trophy. All teams in the fray are strong and we are looking at taking things match by match," he said.
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