The Hockey World League Final begins on Friday and India will have a battle on hand when they take on England. Realistically, a top-four finish will be good enough, but I doubt whether we will be able to do that.
Agreed that most of the top teams like Germany, Australia and the Netherlands have not come with their full squads, still their second teams are better than the present Indian squad. I agree with captain Sardar Singh who has said the hosts have little chance to come up with an extraordinary performance.
First of all we have a new coach in Terry Walsh. This is the first major tournament since taking charge and it will be foolhardy to expect dramatic improvement in the team. May be after a year we will be able to judge what this famous coach has given.
This year India will be playing some major tournaments like the World Cup and Commonwealth Games. So, this tournament will help Walsh to get an idea about who stands where. It’s the same thing for the other teams too. Germany, Australia and rest will be testing their bench strengths. After all, World Cup is just five months away.
The top three slots without doubt will be taken by Germany, Australia and the Netherlands (not necessarily in that order, though). The main battle will for the fourth spot. India will get stiff competition from Argentina, New Zealand, England and Belgium. England and New Zealand are in Pool A with the hosts and it remains to be seen how India perform against these two teams. In fact, I think Friday’s match against England will set the tone for the tournament.
The Indian team is a mix of experience and youth. Some big names like Danish Mujtaba, Gurwinder Chandi, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh will be missing this tournament due to injuries. But good news is SV Sunil and Yuvraj Walmiki are back in the reckoning. They were out for a year and I am sure Terry will like to have a look at these two during the course of the tournament.
The weather will also play a role. And this time the hosts will have a problem. The Delhi cold will not affect teams will Germany, the Netherlands or England, but I am apprehensive about how the Indian players will perform under chilly conditions. After all we are not used to with playing in biting cold.