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Indian juniors keen to leave mark at SAF Games hockey
July 24, 2006 17:02 IST
The upcoming SAF Games in Sri Lanka will provide the right platform to the younger and fringe hockey players to graduate into the senior team.
Keeping this in mind, junior coach Clarence Lobo is approaching this premier regional tournament through a clearly cut out plan.
Lobo said India will field almost the same developmental squad that emerged winners at a six-nation tournament in Poland earlier this year.
"We are going to field almost the same side that won the tournament in Poland. May be there will be four or five changes as some players are attending the seniors' camp in Bangalore.
"But one should not call it a second-string team. They are part of the developmental side," Lobo said over phone from Mumbai, on Monday.
He admitted that there would be a lot of pressure on the young players at the South Asian meet.
"Of course, the SAF Games will be tougher. Our main opponents will be Pakistan, who are also fielding a young team. Besides, Bangladesh, who will play their senior team, are also good," he said.
Lobo said he is yet to chalk out the exact game plan that the Indian team would adopt in the tournament.
"India and Pakistan will play a four-nation junior tournament in Singapore in the early part of next month. Our team will get some video footage of the Pakistani players after which we will draw our plans," the Mumbai-based coach said.
He said strikers like Gurwinder Singh Chandi and V Raja and drag-flicker Raghunath hold the key for India in the tournament.
Expressing satisfaction over the 15-day conditioning camp, which concluded in Patiala recently, Lobo said the players were at the peak of their fitness during the period.
"The camp was quite good. The facilities, including a techno-gym, were excellent in Patiala and the boys enjoyed themselves."
The players selected for the SAF Games will reunite in Chennai early next month to proceed with the final phase of the preparatory camp. During this period they will play some practice matches with the senior team, which would be there at the same time preparing for the World Cup.
Besides other things, Lobo said he would focus on developing strength of the players which is vital during tough marking by the opponents.
The team will leave for Sri Lanka on August 16, two days prior to the start of the SAF Games.