Captain Manpreet Singh on Thursday said the next three months will be crucial for Indian hockey ahead of the final round of Tokyo Olympic Qualifiers in November.
“The next three months are critical for us and whatever we are doing is with focus on sealing our Olympic Qualification in November,” Manpreet said on the sidelines of the on-going national camp.
The team will first travel to Japan for the Olympic test event starting August 17 where India will play New Zealand, Malaysia and hosts Japan followed by the tour of Belgium in September.
“Our main priority right now is to qualify for the Olympics but at the same time we don’t want to come under pressure and be worried about who our opponent is going to be. Our focus right now is to work on our shortcomings and improve collectively as a team.”
Manpreet also said new coach Graham Reid has a good understanding of Indian hockey and continues to encourage the team’s counter-attacking play.
“The good thing working under Graham Reid is that he has closely followed India’s performance over the years and he understands our game well so in that sense he isn’t changing our style. He continues to reinforce that our attack and counter-attacks are our biggest strengths but the focus of our training is to ensure we are defending and finishing well with continued emphasis on speed and fitness,” Manpreet said.
Though the team has been marred with injuries including experienced midfielder Chinglensana Singh’s ankle fracture, forward Lalit Upadhyay’s back strain, Manpreet believes there are enough options in the core group who can soak up the pressure of international hockey.
“These players are missed in the team and we are hopeful they will be fully fit by the Olympic qualifiers.”