Indian men’s hockey team vice-captain Surender Kumar on Wednesday said the upcoming Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be a good opportunity for youngsters to test themselves ahead of the qualifying tournaments for 2020 Olympics.
India will be fielding a young squad at the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with the likes of Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit Kumar (Junior), Gurinder Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Gurjant Singh, among others.
“The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has always been a great platform to test youngsters and see how they adapt to international standards. Their experience will grow ahead of the major (2020 Olympic Games qualifying) tournaments we play this year,” said Surender.
“Some of these players have done very well at the FIH Champions Trophy and 2018 Men’s World Cup and carry a lot of confidence. And we have been speaking to them regularly about handling pressure especially in situations when we are one goal down or two goals down. Their good show will only be beneficial for our team in the lead up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo,” he added.
The Malaysia-bound team has been going through the grind in soaring summer heat at the Sports Authority of India campus in Bengaluru.
Surender said the team felt that training in the afternoon will help them acclimatise to the weather in Ipoh, where the temperature will hover around 34-36 degrees when India play their matches. “It will be just about the same conditions in Ipoh but maybe a bit more humid,” said the vice-captain.
Speaking about India’s chances in the tournament, starting on March 23, with Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Canada, Poland in the fray, Surender emphasised that their goal is to win the gold. “The goal is to win gold but we won’t be going into the tournament thinking of the final. We will have to go step-by-step. Our first match is with Japan and then Korea, and it’s important to start well.”