Sharing the same campus as the senior hockey team in Bengaluru has been the biggest boon, says midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad as the Indian colts prepare to defend the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup title when the tournament begins in Bhubaneswar on November 24.
Guided by coach Harendra Singh, the Indian colts won the 2016 Junior World Cup at Lucknow defeating Belgium, and several players graduated to the senior level, helping the county end its 41-year goal drought by winning bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.
Both the men’s senior and junior squads are based at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre here and Prasad, who is eligible to participate in the Junior World Cup, said on Monday that getting insights from seniors on playing under pressure had helped the colts in their preparations.
“Our preparations are going really well and every player is giving his 100 per cent on the field during practice. Sharing the same campus as the senior team has been the biggest boon because we have been able to get a lot of match practice against them. We also spend a lot of time talking to the seniors about playing under pressure and then experiences they share is valuable,” said Prasad, who is part of the probables’ group for the Junior World Cup.
India are grouped in pool B along with Canada, France and Poland. The other teams in the fray include Belgium, Malaysia, South Africa and Chile in pool A, Netherlands, Spain, Korea and United States grouped in pool C, while Germany, Argentina, Pakistan and Egypt are in Pool D.
Talking about the level of competition, Prasad said, “No doubt it will be a tough competition but we will continue to go by the mantra of taking one-match-at-a-time. Our first priority will be to top the group and make it to the quarterfinals.”
Prasad added that the players are highly motivated and eager to play on their home ground in Bhubaneswar. “Though there won’t be any spectators, yet there is a lot of excitement among the players to just experience the facilities at the Kalinga Stadium. Personally, for me too, I never had the opportunity of playing in the 2016 Junior World Cup as I had suffered an injury and eventually never made the team. I am looking forward to use my experience with the senior team to play my best hockey at the Junior World Cup. Our focus is to make it to the podium,” he added.