India take a break after tough openers

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Indian team enjoyed a two-day break ahead of their final Group A game against Argentina on Wednesday.

Updated: May 09, 2007 12:58 IST
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Ipoh, Malaysia:

With two difficult matches behind them and three points in the kitty, the Indian team enjoyed a two-day break ahead of their final Group A game against Argentina on Wednesday in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament.

Chief coach Joaquim Carvalho was pleased as he looked back on the narrow 1-0 defeat to Australia and the 5-4 win against China over the weekend.

"I think we did fairly well in both the matches, though I would be the first to say that there is still scope for improvement. But at least, we are on the right track," he said on Monday.

"We had just two international matches in Kuala Lumpur before coming to Ipoh for this tournament and took on Australia in our very first outing.

"Then we had a pressure game against China and I am happy at the way our team has performed so far. Given more time and exposure, I am sure we can build a strong team," said Carvalho, who took over from Vasudevan Baskaran about a month back.

The former World Cup and Olympic half-back, known for his crunching tackles, Carvalho has imbibed coaching techniques from his "guru" Balkishen Singh.

Caught in a contemplative mood, Carvalho said, "To be honest, I was a bit concerned that our young team was taking on Australia in the first game."

"The fact that a majority of our players were inexperienced at this level did play on my mind, but I remembered Balkishen's words of 'hit hard and hit over heads' and it was the strategy we adopted against the Aussies. It paid off, though we were unlucky to lose the game we should have won," Carvalho said.

Tough game

On the up-and-down game against China who scored three of the four goals through indirect penalty corner conversions, Carvalho said, "Our biggest problem was that Bimal Lakra
suffered an injury and him being one of the penalty corner defenders on the line, it made a lot of difference. He could barely move and once I pulled him out, we had to re-organise

"Couple of our defenders, especially Harpal Singh, had an off-day against China and it resulted in so many penalty corners (nine)," he recalled.

India did not have the best of preparations coming into this tournament. A 1-0 loss followed by a 1-1 draw with a young Malaysian team at the massive Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur last week, led to speculation that the Indian team was not best to leave the shores.

"I know that some had written us off after the results in Kuala Lumpur, but I put it down to inexperience of our players who were rather intimidated by the conditions. Most of them had never played in such a huge stadium and being their first senior international, they were obviously nervous.

"After all, I too went through the same phase when I first played for India, but I knew that the team had the talent and potential to do much better. It was a question of
getting used the conditions and gaining confidence," Carvalho said.

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