The 2018 Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy is only two weeks away now. 6 teams will be competing at Breda, Netherlands to battle for the crown of Champions of the Champions. The Indian Men’s team will also be competing in the tournament, having been invited by the FIH Executive Board. They will be alongside Australia, Argentina, Netherlands, Belgium and Pakistan.
So, how will India fare in the tournament?
Hockey Champions Trophy – Performances in the past few years
India’s performances have been quite commendable in the last couple of years. In the previous Hockey Champions Trophy held in London in 2016, the Men in Blue clinched the silver medal where they lost to Australia in a fiercely contested battle which went down to penalties.
The Rio Olympics wasn’t a success but India managed to end 8th which was an improvement to their last place finish at London in 2012. The Men in Blue won the Asian Champions Trophy by defeating Pakistan 3-2 in a tightly contested final.
2017 was a pretty decent year for the Men’s Hockey team as they sailed through their opponents to win the Asian Cup at Dhaka which in turn, booked their place in this year’s World Cup.
At the final round of the 2016-17 Hockey World League, India had a poor group stage as they drew against but lost against England and Germany by scores of 3-2 and 2-0 respectively.
In the quarter finals however, India defeated Belgium 3-2 on penalties after a fierce contest saw both teams scoring 3 goals each at the end of regular and extra time.
The Men in Blue were however beaten by eventual runners-up Argentina thanks to a 17th minute goal from Gonzalo Peillat. India claimed the bronze medal by beating Germany 2-1 in the third place playoff, thus marking their best performance at the Hockey World League.
Hockey Champions Trophy – What are the chances?
2018 however, hasn’t been a good year for India so far. At the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, India endured a miserable outing as they would finish 5th out of 6 teams. India thrashed Malaysia 5-1 and drew 1-1 against eventual runners-up England but were beaten by Australia, Argentina and even bottom-placed Ireland.
India were looking to compensate for their Azlan Shah Cup disappointment at the Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast. India began their campaign by drawing 2-2 against Pakistan. This was followed by a 4-3 win against Wales in a highly tense clash.
The Men in Blue won their remaining matches against Malaysia and England to top their group. In the semis, India were beaten by New Zealand 3-2 and had to play the bronze medal playoff where they were up against England whom they beat in the group stages.
However, India lost 2-1 this time thanks to two goals by Samuel Ward. This was the first time in 12 years that India were without a medal in Men’s Hockey.
Current Crop of players
The Indian team has its fair share of talent in its current squad. The team has experienced players like PR Sreejesh, SV Sunil and Sardar Singh who are pretty formidable in their respective positions.
In Rupinder Pal Singh, India has one of the finest drag flickers in the world and Harmanpreet Singh is another drag flicker who can be very dangerous to the opposition. Manpreet Singh may be short in stature but his abilities make him a very formidable halfback who can always create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Other notable players of the team include Kothajit Singh and Birendra Lakra.
India do have a talented side at their disposal but the Champions Trophy will be pretty hard as they will lock horns with reigning champs and top ranked Australia, Netherlands, Belgium and Argentina.
Pakistan will be a team who India should be expected to defeat but the fact that India drew against Pakistan at the Commonwealth Games should alter the odds.
Hence, India’s chances of replicating their performance of 2016 or of even clinching a medal is pretty low but the present team has the firepower to give the big guns a run for their money.
Indian Squad for 2018 Hockey Champions Trophy
Goalkeepers: Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran (Captain), Krishan Bahadur Pathak;
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas;
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (VC), Sardar Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad;
Forwards: Sunil Sowmarpet Vittalacharya, Ramandeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Sumit Kumar (Jr.), Akashdeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh