Newly-appointed coach of the Indian hockey team Graham Reid has a very tough first assignment. Touring Australia is never an easy proposition for any side in world hockey. However, India's performance down under over the years hasn't been that bad. In fact, five years ago, the Indian team managed to defeat Australia in a bilateral series a few months after the Kookaburras romped to victory in the World Cup earlier that year.
This time, Australia are not the World Champions but still a very potent side. While the likes of Chris Ciriello, Mark Knowles and Jamie Dwyer have moved on, players such as Jeremy Hayward, Matthew Swann and Tom Craig are keeping the present team highly competitive.
The 18-men team that has been selected has a nice blend of youth and experience but the absence of Sardara Singh who retired last year is still felt. So, will the Indian team be able to turn the tables again? Or, are the Australians going to keep their dominance at home? Let's do a SWOT analysis.
- There are some massively talented players in the Indian team. Mandeep Singh is a prolific striker who has the accuracy of a marksman. He could be assisted by another great talent in Armaan Qureshi. The latter has experience of playing in Australia when he participated in the 2017 Australian Hockey League as a member of the invited India Development side.
- Akashdeep Singh will add much-needed experience to the unit since veterans like SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh are missing.
- The midfield is boosted by Manpreet Singh who has been able to adapt to the pressure of captaincy well. A young player like Hardik Singh who is sprightly and quick can be of great help.
- It's the defence where the team looks highly competent. Kothajit Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh are highly effective. Kothajit can also move forward and do a good job in the midfield. Hence, he could be the sort of playmaker that India wanted Sardara to be in the last leg of his career. Harmanpreet Singh and Birendra Lakra have also been doing reasonably well for India over the last couple of years.
- With Harmanpreet and Rupinder both in the team, India will have two good penalty-corner specialists, hence, two good options.
- The dearth of experience may haunt India. The forward line looks especially inexperienced and may have difficulty coping with the crafty work of Swann and company.
- Lack of consistency has been another major concern. While the team has managed to come up with good performance at regular intervals, like the Champions Trophy last year, they have repeatedly lost crunch matches.
- Penalty shoot-outs have also proven to be an Achilles heel, maybe due to the inability to cope with pressure.
- The absence of Chinglensana Kangujam could affect India's efficiency in the midfield.
- With Olympics just around a year away, it is the perfect time for the team to unite and start afresh under a new coach. They can put away the bad memories and write a new chapter.
- Soon, this team will be playing in the World Hockey Series Final in Bhubaneswar against the top sides of the world. By doing well in this tour, they will be getting momentum behind themselves for the event in June.
- Young players like Qureshi and Hardik can take major steps in these matches to make themselves regular members of the team.
- The game of musical chairs being played with the position of coach may have an adverse impact upon the Indian side. The new coach may be insecure.
- Under Harender Singh, the team seemed to have made some progress. Going back to an Australian coach could mean having to change their style of play.
- Having been a successful coach of the Kookaburras, Reid may be keen to introduce a different mode of man-management. If it doesn't suit the Indians, they may have difficulty adapting.
PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak (GK); Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar (VC), Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh; Manpreet Singh (C), Jaskaran Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh; Mandeep Singh, Gursahibjit Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Sumit Kumar Jr, Armaan Qureshi
|Date||India vs||Time (IST)|
|May 8||Western Australia Thundersticks||3:30 PM|
|May 10||Australia A||7:30 AM|
|May 13||Australia A||7:30 AM|
|May 15||Australia||2:30 PM|
|May 17||Australia||4:00 PM|