The Indian men’s hockey team management does not distinguish between senior and junior players, head coach Harendra Singh has said after the squad was announced for the World Cup beginning later this month.
Harendra said India have prioritised current form and fitness over experience while picking the 18-member squad, which was announced on Thursday. The selectors excluded experienced players Rupinder Pal Singh and SV Sunil, as they aren’t fully fit.
The squad consists of six players who were part of the victorious Indian team that won the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2016. Harendra is confident that the youngsters have played enough matches and tournaments to be ready for the senior World Cup.
“One thing with a lot of players in this team is, they know how to play in front of 25,000 people screaming from the stands,” Harendra told DNA in an interview. “They have been tested in the same environment in the Junior World Cup. Their Junior World Cup experience can be looked upon as a cushion, but at the same time we cannot ignore their current form and fitness.”
Harendra also denied that a major share of the responsibility will lie with the senior members of the squad during the World Cup. “I don’t define players as senior or junior,” he was quoted as saying. “Those words don’t exist in my team because the moment you play international hockey, it means that you have enough experience to represent the country.”
He added, “For me, if you have played 400 matches for India or you’re playing for the first time, you’re wearing the same India jersey. You’re playing for the same team, you’re playing to win, and you’re playing a sport you love. So, that passion should be the same, whether you’re representing India for the 400th time or the first.”
Harendra also wants his players to consider the fact that they are playing a World Cup at home as an advantage rather than pressure. The head coach also wants India to improve their finishing in front of goal. “That’s one thing we’re focussing on, and I’m holding team meetings as well as individual meetings to address it,” he said.
You can read the entire interview here.