As Uttar Pradesh that produced legendary hockey players like Dhyan Chand and Mohammed Shahid is set to witness another history in the making as its capital Lucknow will host the FIH Hockey Junior World Cup, starting December 8, India’s head coach Harendra Singh believes the nation will enter the New Year triumphantly.
“The boys are full of energy and motivation. Let the World Cup begin and Lucknow, the mecca of hockey, host the mega-event and the whole nation will celebrate Christmas and the New Year with victory of these young boys,” Harendra said in an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com.
The Indian team appears fit and confident to take on their opponents as the biggest hockey carnival 2016 will soon light up the cold, dark winter.
I think the team is now ready after a hard-sweat training of eight months. These boys are waiting for the D-day (December 8). We are mentally, physically and tactically ready to take on our opponents.”
Under Harjeet Singh’s captaincy, India is set to roll to the 11th edition of the World Cup, which they won in 2001. In November, Harjeet led the Indians to the title at the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in Valencia, Spain.
Talking about the young and dynamic Harjeet, Harendra heaped praise on the 21-year-old midfielder.
Amid any circumstances, he can lead and set examples on how we should play hockey. Whenever the team is in trouble, he comes one step forward and takes the responsibility,” Harendra said.
Cherry on the cake is his crisp passes, through which he clean sweeps the ball towards the striker. He fits in both attacking as well as defending role and always sets examples for the young colts,” he added.
Harendra started his coaching career in 1998 and now has coaching experience of more than 380 matches. Some of his noted appearances count in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and World Cup editions of 2005, 2006 and 2010, along with other international and national matches.
Besides Harjeet, the entire team is confident and eager to show the best of their hockey skills, which will hold the country forward on this turf,” Harendra said, hailing the team.
India’s senior national team coach and high performance director Roelant Oltmans is associated with the junior team as well. Harendra admitted that Oltmans deserve a big portion of credit for the growth of Indian hockey in recent past.
Roelant helping the junior team has always resulted in impressive performances. We are working in synchronisation. Whatever we have developed in the past two-and-half years, Roelant has contributed a lot in it,” he said.
Recently, Indian senior team’s fitness level has come up as the most talked-about subject in international hockey. Harendra put his bet on the junior team’s fitness when asked about the young colts.
We have a very good fitness and I can bet on that. We worked really hard with team physios and now it feels good to see the results. The fitness level of senior or junior team is something we have improved notably in the past two-and-half years. I believe, if you are fit, you can give your hundred per cent.”
Sixteen international teams are participating in this edition and India are placed alongside England, Canada and South Africa in the Pool D.
When asked who he sees as India’s toughest competitor, Harendra said: All the 16 teams are capable of winning the World Cup. We’ll see the competitors and plan accordingly match by match. Currently, we have set our sights on Canada, whom we are playing in the opening match.”