IHF going all out to
win World Cup
The Indian Hockey Federation has pulled out all stops in its bid to win the upcoming World Cup, scheduled to be conducted in Kuala Lumpur.
Thus, the past few weeks have seen a spurt of new initiatives. For the first time, an Indian team hired a sports psychologist to help with the mental side of preparations -- an initiative that even the more popular, and cash rich, cricket board is yet to copy.
Coach Cedric D’Souza, who had come up with the idea of hiring a sports psychologist, is now busy trying to ensure that the team gets state-of-the-art playing gear.
In association with team sponsors Castrol India, thus, the IHF is trawling the market for a special sweat resistant fabric, for the players’ uniforms.
"All along, we have been using cotton jerseys, which after a short while get wet and heavy with sweat. It is irritating to play with a soaked jersey -- you catch a chill and it hampers one's performance," says D'Souza, explaining the importance of getting the players kitted out in the best possible gear.
At another level, the IHF sent a two-member reconnaissance team to Kuala Lumpur, to scout out the 6-nation pre-World Cup tournament held from January 18-26. The idea, says D’Souza, is to gather information -- including videotapes -- on the players and performance of the participating teams, with a view to using that to fine-tune India’s own gameplans.
"Olympic and World champions Holland, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Japan and Malaysia are going to be participating in that tournament, and all those teams will figure in the World Cup as well," D’Souza explains. "It is vital therefore that we are well prepared to face them, and information will help in our preparation. So we have sent C R Kumar (who has been attached to the national junior and senior squads at various times) to videotape the matches and gather material about the key players."
All of this has come as new and exciting to the probables, now training at the Astro Turf Stadium in Chennai. With the result that the mood in the camp, where the players are now busy in intensive drills and in fine-tuning techniques, is upbeat, surcharged.
The focus during the camp, says D’Souza, is on the task of "rectifying the deficiencies" which were noticed in various international tournaments. Attention is being given to strengthening the defence, and also to finishing -- two areas that are traditional weaknesses of Indian teams.
"These are two vital areas. If we can tighten our defence and finish better, I see no reason why we can't win the Cup this time," says D'Souza, as he puts the probables through their paces.
D'Souza, however, is in a bit of a bother. Ace midfielder Baljit Singh Saini is still to recover from chicken pox. However, there are indications that despite missing a major part of the camp, he will to be included in the 18-man squad, which will be announced on January 31. The selectors feel that since there is still a month to go for the World Cup, Saini has time to regain full fitness.
In fact, almost all the players who did duty for the country in the Champions Challenge in December 2001, which India won, should find a place in World Cup squad. Defender Dilip Tirkey, who missed that tournament along with Saini on account of injury, is certain to regain his place. Another inclusion could be Bimal Lakra, who was in the probables list for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The trio should come in at the expense of some of the juniors who participated in the Champions Challenge.
The World Cup is scheduled for February 24-March 9 in Kuala Lumpur -- which, ironically, was the venue of India’s only World Cup triumph till date, way back in 1975.