As the Indian hockey team gears up for the Hero Asian Champions Trophy in Oman, captain Manpreet Singh admitted that he and his men aren’t completely over the heartbreak caused by the defeat against Malaysia in the semi-finals of the Asian Games in Jakarta.
India, who were favoured to defend their gold medal, finished the tournament with a bronze after a consolation win against Pakistan. Failure to defend gold means that they will have to go through a long, winding route to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo.
“It was a tournament we should have won and the disappointment of losing to Malaysia in the semi-final still haunts us,” said Manpreet.
The team has been training over the last three weeks at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, which is the venue for the Hockey World Cup.
“At the Asian Games, I think we were slightly overconfident that we are Asia’s No 1 team and this complacency is what we need to avoid during the Asian Champions Trophy,” he said.
“Post the Asian Games loss, the team had several meetings to understand where we went wrong and watched the videos from that match numerous times. When we regrouped for the national camp, we told ourselves it’s time to move on and we cannot let the past affect our chances at the upcoming two big tournaments.”
India, the title holders of the Asian Champions Trophy, will begin their campaign against Oman in their opening match on 18 October and play previous edition’s runners-up Pakistan in their second round robin match on 20 October.
The men in blue will take on Malaysia on 23 October followed by the last round robin match on 24 October against Korea. The semi-finals will be played on 27 October with the final to be held on 28 October.
“The playing conditions in Oman will be similar to Bhubaneswar and we are training hard, sometimes train till late in the night as some of our matches start late in the Asian Champions Trophy,” said Manpreet.
“Our aim going into the tournament is simple – We play to our potential against every team without taking anyone, including Oman, lightly. There won’t be any room for complacency. We have watched videos of how each of these teams play and we are prepared for the challenge,” he added.
This will be India’s first tournament after the retirement of the vastly experienced Sardar Singh. Manpreet, now, will have to helm the midfield in his absence.
“I always aim to do my best for the team and what is expected from me by the team,” he said. “We have youngsters like Nilakanta Sharma who plays beside me and defender Hardik Singh who is making his debut.”
“The seniors constantly talk and communicate on field to help the youngsters and ensure everyone understands each other’s game well. Everyone is putting their best effort in our preparations and we have paid a lot of attention to on-field communication apart from other aspects of the game.”