Both PR Sreejesh and PT Rao did not have the best of outings in the inaugural Hockey India League and national hockey team captain Sardar Singh feels goalkeeping is an area of concern for the hosts ahead of the Hockey World League 2 to be held in New Delhi from February 18-26.
Turning out for Dabur Mumbai Magicians in the just-concluded HIL, both Sreejesh and Rao were below-par under the bar as their franchise failed to progress to the semi-finals of the five-team event, managing just one win out of 12 games.
But Sardar is confident about the duo's reversal of form in the upcoming Hockey World League 2, which is a qualifying event for the 2014 FIH World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands.
"Obviously, goalkeeping is a concern because Sreejesh and Rao did not have a very good HIL. But ups and downs are part and parcel of a player's life," he said in New Delhi on Friday.
"I feel Sreejesh is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It was a matter of time he gets his form back. I feel it's just about regaining their self-confidence back as soon as possible," Sardar said on the sidelines of a progamme announcing energy company Cairn India's association with Indian hockey.
Cairn India, the world's fastest growing energy company, has signed a multi-crore three-year deal with Hockey India as a co-sponsor.
Lauding the HIL, Sardar said the franchise-based event has been a blessing in disguise for Indian hockey because in young players like Mandeep Singh and Malak Singh, the league has produced some future stars of the game.
"We have learnt a lot from the HIL after spending a month with top foreign players. Earlier, we didn't use to get too much time and opportunity to rub shoulders with foreigners.
"I feel the confidence of our young players have also increased after getting a chance to play alongside foreign stars like Jamie Dwyer, Tuen de Nooijer etc. We needed players like Mandeep and Malak in the team and it is because of the HIL they came into limelight," Sardar said.
Looking at the line-up of the men's competition, India will start as overwhelming favourites in the tournament, from win New Delhi two teams will qualify for next stage i.e. Hockey World League Round 3 (semi-final league) to be held in the Netherlands and Malaysia between June 13 and July 7.
Apart from India, the other participating nations in the men's competition are China, Ireland, Bangladesh, Oman and Fiji. The Indian skipper, however, sounded cautious.
"In modern day hockey, we can't take any team lightly. We can't consider China easy and Ireland is a tricky side," Sardar said.
"If we play our normal hockey and give 100 per cent we should win easily."
Meanwhile, seeded second behind Japan, the Indian women's team has a relatively difficult task at hand compared to its male counterparts.
But skipper Ritu Rani is upbeat about her team's chances in the women's event win New Delhi Japan, Russia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Fiji are the other participating nations.
"Our preparation is going very well. For the last one month the entire team is together. We have a relatively young team.
"In trainings, we have been focussing mainly on penalty corners and scoring as many goals as possible. We are also working on conceding less penalty corners to the opposition teams," Rani said.
"Japan is ahead of us in rankings so they will be a tough opponent. But our coach (Neil Hawgood) has been working very hard with us and it is now up to us to implement his strategies on the field," she added.
While the Indian men's team will open their campaign against minnows Fiji on February 18, the eves will face Kazakhstan the same day.