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India ready for an English challenge

Melbourne: Returning to Champions Trophy hockey tournament after six years, India are confronted with a test of character as they take on England in the lung-opener here on Saturday, aiming to wipe off the bitter memories of their London Olympic debacle.

India’s return to the Champions Trophy for the first time since 2005 comes through a wildcard invitation, and the team is well aware that their performance at the State Hockey Centre will be under scrutiny.

The Champions Trophy marks the first international assignment for the Indians after the London Olympics, apart from the nine-a-side International Super Series in Perth on way to Melbourne.

The wildcard status for India comes a year after the team lost a chance to play in the Champions Trophy as hosts when the International Hockey Federation (FIH) moved the event out of New Delhi to Auckland citing governance issues in Indian hockey.

India’s coach Michael Nobbs and captain Sardara Singh are hopeful of a decent show despite the absence of several senior players who lost their berths in the national squad in the aftermath of the bottom spot at the Olympics.

Nobbs, a former Australian international, obviously wants to forget about the disastrous outing London turned out for his team. He wants his young wards to gain from the experience this Champions Trophy outing would provide them.

“We obviously had some problems with our game structure in London and that’s something no one would like to remember, but we have to look ahead now,” said Nobbs.

“The Champions Trophy provides a big opportunity for the youngsters, who will be up against the best players in the world. On our part, we need to provide them the opportunity to develop, and this is a fantastic chance to do so,” added Nobbs.

Sardara, the team’s star player, is back in the captain’s role and should be an inspiration for the youngsters, who have come into the side after several seasoned players were left out. (PTI)