Japan tourney will be a test for youngsters

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The four-nation hockey tournament in Gifu, Japan, starting on May 13, would offer a great opportunity to several junior India players.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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New Delhi:

With the Olympics just a few months away, the four-nation hockey tournament in Gifu, Japan, starting on May 13, would offer a great opportunity to several junior aspirants to prove their mettle at the highest level. India have decided to send to Japan an "experimental" side that consists of mostly junior players, who did the country proud by winning the Asia Cup title in Pakistan recently. The team, to be led by one of the few seniors in the side - Ignace Tirkey, is expected to face a tough battle in the tournament, which also features Asian Games winners South Korea, Japan and China. "We are going with an experimental side whereas Korea and Japan would be sending their full-strength teams. But still we are confident of winning the event," coach Harendra Singh said on the eve of the training camp for the 18-member squad at the National Stadium here. It would be Harendra's second stint as coach of the national side after the disastrous outing in the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in January. But the former Indian player, who is also the coach of the junior team that won the Asia Cup, is ready for the challenge in the six-day event. "We will be having plans for all the teams. It will be on a match to match basis," he said. "For example, the Koreans are very fast on counter moves. So we are seeing how to stop them carrying out such moves," Harendra said. He said the team was also focussing on the strength and weaknesses of the opponents. "We would be looking to cash in on their weak points. But at the same time, would be cautious in handling them in the areas where they are strong." Harendra, under whose leadership the juniors recorded 30 wins on the trot, said it would not be a tough task to deal with five members in the squad who recently played in the national team in the twin tournaments in Australia. "All these five players have played under me at some time or other. So it would be not a problem at all in getting the best out of them," he said. Harendra said though the team has a good attack and a solid defence, he would still be working on certain areas during the camp. "Emphasis would be on rotation of the ball. We have to be a bit faster in that department. As far as other areas are concerned, we are quite good. "The addition of Vimal Lakra and Tirkey would make our defence more tight as these two are good mid-fielders," he said. India would be leaving for Japan on May 12. (PTI)

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