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Indian men's hockey team prepares for FIH Pro League as Olympics selection looms

Head Coach Craig Fulton has made it clear that India will have their Olympics squad from the performance in the FIH Pro League.

Indian mens hockey team prepares for FIH Pro League as Olympics selection looms

Indian men's hockey team celebrates after scoring a goal against Malaysia in the final of the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai on August 12. (Photo credit: Odisha Sports)


Pritish Raj

Updated: 10 Feb 2024 7:46 AM GMT

The training sessions are getting more intense as the Indian men's hockey team comes closer to starting their FIH Pro League campaign in front of the home crowd tomorrow in Bhubaneswar against Spain.

With the 2024 Paris Olympics in sight, Head Coach Craig Fulton is considering the Pro League as the screening test for the Olympics squad.

"We will look to confirm our Olympic squad here. We are trying to allow everyone to play in both legs of the tournament to assess them," Fulton said in the press conference ahead of the tournament.

Despite the losses and disappointments that might come along the way, the team would be looking at consistency and team effort while getting the final squad for the Olympics.

"We want to be as close to performing as we can in every game and that's not always going to be the case. So, it's time to confirm our squad and at the same time get some performances together and get some consistency," he said.

The matches later in the year will be used as the opportunity to build the bench strength for the Olympics.

Indian skipper Harmanpreet Singh agreed with his coach and believes that these home matches can be crucial in selecting the Olympic squad.

"These are the last series of matches in India ahead of the Olympics. So, this is a good chance for us to try and improve further. We play some good matches here, so we have to see how we utilize this opportunity and how to prepare for the Olympic Games," he said.

Screening test for youngsters

India has named four youngsters in the 24-member team- Vishnukant Singh, Rabichandra Moirangthem, Sanjay, and Arajieet Singh Hundal.

Fulton said that the youngsters are here for a fair opportunity in the Olympic squad.

"We have been watching them for seven months since I joined. It is always important to look out for talent. Not saying we don’t have talent in our group. But it’s also to try and get them playing our way,” Fulton said.

“It’s about development for them. To understand tactically, and technically what we are looking for. If there’s an opportunity they can make the (Olympic) squad, we want to give them that fair opportunity. That’s why they are here," he added further.

Vishnukant Singh will be eyeing his spot in defence as his natural choice of midfield has too many options including the vice-captain Hardik Singh and veteran Manpreet Singh along with former junior captain Vivek Sagar Prasad.

The same goes for Rabichandra who will have to do something exceptional to enter the packed Indian midfield.

Defender Sanjay and forward Araijeet will have the best chance to sneak into the Indian team.

With Varun Kumar withdrawing from the team following rape accusations, Sanjay can emerge as one of the backups to Harmnapreet Singh in drag flicking.

Known for his hard-hitting skills, Sanjay has a knack for finding holes in the penalty corner defence of the opponents. To fix his place in the team, he will have to work on his drag flick conversion rate.

In Araijeet Singh Hundal, India has a tall forward with powerful shots in both forehand and backhand. With his reach, Hundal can emerge as the answer to Fulton's worries about converting chances in the opponent's circle.

Improvement in goal conversion

When asked about any specific area where the team needs improvement, Craig Fulton pointed to the goal conversion in the final third.

Talking about the conversion, Fulton said, "Converting goals in the final third is something we are looking to focus on. We have a nice attacking style but at the end, we have to convert those chances."

"While we will focus on converting the goals, defending and playing on counterattack will remain our core value," Fulton added.

With India playing two of the pool mates from the 2024 Paris Olympics in the form of Australia and Ireland, it will be interesting to see how things shape up for this group ahead of the Olympics.

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