Hockey Pro League: India will look for consistency, full points against England

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Lack of consistency has been the bane of Indian hockey for years and Graham Reid’s team too has been plagued by this as is evident in their performance in the ongoing men’s FIH Pro League.

In eight matches they have played so far, India have won five and lost three, one of them in shoot-out. Though Reid’s team is placed second behind Germany (17) with 16 points from eight games, their wins have come against lower-ranked teams.

They have beaten South Africa (10-2, 10-2) and registered mixed results in the double header against France (5-0, 2-5) held in South Africa in February, while in home games, they shared the honours with Spain (5-4, 3-5) and against Argentina they registered 2-2 (1-3 SO) and 4-3 results in a thrilling two-legged tie.

As they go into the double-header against England at the Kalinga Stadoum this weekend, consistency is one thing that Ried’s boys will hope to achieve. India will play England in the first match this Saturday followed by the second on Sunday.

Olympic bronze medallists India would love to win both their matches against England before they go into a two-month-long break in the schedule. They resume their campaign on June 11-12 with away matches against world No. 2 and reigning Olympic and world champions Belgium, followed by a double-header against the Netherlands a week later.

Though England had a great start against Spain, they failed to click against Argentina. England have played only four matches so far and though they are rebuilding their team following the retirement of many senior players, they still will be quite dangerous and capable of surprising any team.

Indian men’s team captain Amit Rohidas said they are not thing of the opposition and emphasised on sticking to their plans for the matches.

“They have a lot of young players in the team, and they have come with a lot of motivation. Each team plays to win matches, so it will certainly be a good challenge for us. Our focus will be to stick to our plans, just like we did against Argentina. We managed a draw in the first game and won the second game in the last minute. It was a really good performance from the team, so it will be really important to play according to the plans and strategies that we make against our opponents,” the Indian captain said during a pre-match virtual press conference on Friday.

India vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh said their campaign was going in the right direction.

“It’s been going really great from the team’s perspective. Mainly our focus has been to get stronger match by match. We are learning from our mistakes, we are getting to know a lot of new things, so just maintaining that we are making the most out of these Pro League Matches to prepare for the major tournaments. Even younger players are getting chances to play, and in each match, we try to give our best, so it’s really helping the team,” he stated.

The Indians have the most aggressive team in the competition, scoring 41 goals but they have shown defensive frailties too and have conceded 23 goals so far.

Besides a consistent performance against a side that is ranked world No. 4, England will also keep the weather, which is expected to be hot and humid this weekend, in mind.

England head coach Zak Jones hoped the weather will not be a factor in the two matches. “I hope the weather will not be a factor as it was a bit pleasant when we practiced on Thursday evening.”

He said the matches against Argentina have prepared his team for the double-header against India.

“I think there are a lot of similarities in the way Argentina and India play, so we feel that the games against Argentina have hopefully, prepared us relatively well for the sort of India play,” said Jones.

“We know India are a really good side and they are playing pretty well at the moment, so I think for us it will be to play our game, which is to look after the ball, try and wear them down, play some positive hockey. We’ve got quite a lot of inexperienced players as well, so they have learned a lot from Argentina games and hopefully can bring those learnings in these two games against India,” he concluded.

Having lost both their matches to Argentina, Jones will hope his boys will fare better against India.

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