The Indian hockey team had swinging fortunes in 2017. Though they managed to win a Bronze at the Hockey World league hosted by India, there was nothing much to cheer about. 2018 is a major year for almost all Indian sports including hockey.
Indian Hockey team – Super Schedule for 2018
The first big tournament for Indian hockey team in 2018 is the Four Nations Invitational Tour in New Zealand. The men’s team is slated to play two separate five-day series against Belgium, New Zealand and Japan. The tour officially starts from January 17 at the Blake Park in Tauranga. This will be followed by five-day Series at the Gallagher Hockey Centre in Hamilton that ends on January 28.
India has a young team that features four debutantes. Captain Manpreet Singh speaking to media persons stressed on the importance of the Four Nations tournament. He said emphasizing on team’s increasing confidence to beat higher ranked teams is important to our overall success.
“It is always good to start the season with some good matches against top teams. We have Belgium in our pool in the World Cup this year. It’s good that we are getting to play many matches against them. The more the merrier. With teams like New Zealand and Japan in the fray, this tour will certainly help us in our preparations for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” said the 25-year-old Indian captain.
Tracking back on the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017, Manpreet said, “Doing well against teams like Australia, Belgium and Germany has instilled a new confidence in the boys.”
Indian Hockey Team – Are Commonwealth and Asian medals on the cards?
Captain and midfielder Manpreet Singh expressed confidence that his side can win gold at the Commonwealth Games 2018 and defend their Asian Games title later this year.
“It was very important to do well against these tops teams in a big event. Earlier, somewhere at the back of our minds, we lacked the confidence that we can do well against higher ranked teams. But now we don’t doubt our abilities. We play well against top teams and play with the belief that we can win against them. India is the youngest team in the tournament and how we played before (in 2017) instills new confidence in the minds of the youngsters,” he said.
The major events lined up this year after the Four Nations Tour the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy, 2018 Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy and the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup.
The team will go through litmus test, but skipper Manpreet is certain of the team’s realistic goals.
“After the HWL Final, we recognized some of critical areas that we were lacking in. The players knew we can do better in defence, man-to-man marking in the circle and we did work on that in this camp. There is no doubt we are approaching this year with clear goals of winning in the CWG and defending our Gold Medal at the Asian Games. It is important we convert our weaknesses into our strength before entering these major events,” concluded the captain before departing to New Zealand.
The Indian hockey team will play the first match against Japan in New Zealand. Hope this tournament proves to be a good breeding ground for the young team to cope up with the bigger challenges. As said earlier, 2018 is a sports year for Indian athletes. And as the hockey team is a major component of all sports events, hope team is free from injury, ready to rule every event they participate in.