Thursday, February 27, 2014

4th Senior Nationals: Debutants Hockey Gangpur, Vidarbha Hockey Association hit winning ways

Debutants Hockey Gangpur- Odisha and Vidarbha Hockey Association launched their campaigns in the ‘B’ division of the 4th Hockey India Senior Men National Championship on a winning note at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in Lucknow on Thursday.

Featuring in the lung-opener Hockey Gangpur- Odisha hammered Puducherry 9-2 in a Pool C match. Bruno Hedrino Lugun and Banamali Xess scored twice, while Amarjeet Ekka, Kishor Lakra, Bikash Toppo, Roshan Minz and Ashish Anmol Minz chipped in with a goal each for the winners. N Sellamuthu and N Kamalakannan scored two solace goals for Puducherry.

Vidarbha Hockey Association kickstarted their campaign in Pool D, scripting a 2-1 win over Delhi riding on a brace from Dalbir Singh.

In other matches, Bengal eased past Tripura 4-0 in Pool C. Chhattisgarh played out a 1-1 draw against debutants Central Reserve Police Force in Pool D, while Maharashtra spanked Kerala 8-0 in the same pool.

As many as 22 teams are participating in the national ‘B’ division – the two-tier format being put in place for the first time in the seniors nationals.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

32 teams to feature in 4th Senior Women Nationals

Defending champions Haryana, last year’s runners-up Haryana, Punjab and Jharkhand are among thirty two teams that will slug it out for top honours in the 4th Hockey India Senior Women National Championship, which gets underway in Bhopal from March 13. The senior nationals will run till March 23.

Like the men’s section, the senior nationals for women from this year onwards will see a two-tier format – Division A and B. The championship will be played at the Aish Bagh Hockey Stadium and Hockey Stadium Mayur Park.

The event will be played on a league-cum-knockout basis and will be played in two phases -- Division A and B. 16 teams will compete in both divisions. The national ‘B’ division will be played from March 13-20, while the national ‘A’ division will be played from March 18-23.

Each division will comprise four pools featuring four teams each. The tournament will witness the induction of two new teams -- Vidarbha Hockey Association and Hockey Gangpur - Odisha. Assam will take on Goa in the inaugural match of national ‘B’ Division on March 13 and the final match of will be played on March 20. Haryana will face Odisha in the inaugural match of national ‘A’ division on March 18 and the final will be played on March 23.

It may be worth recalling that Haryana got the better of Railways 4-1 in the 2013 final in Lucknow, in a game where the latter squandered a mammoth 13 penalty corners. Jharkhand had pipped Punjab to take the third spot.

The senior nationals are of prime importance for women’s hockey players as the year 2014 is an important year for them considering that the national team will be taking part in big-ticket events like Champions Challenge 1, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pakistan joins India, withdraws from 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

The 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament has been hit by a series of withdrawals. Pakistan has become the latest country to cry out of the premier tourney of the Asian region, dealing a severe blow to Malaysian Hockey Confederation – the organizers of the event.

It is learnt that Pakistan had earlier confirmed its participation only to back out at the eleventh hour without citing any reason for their pull-out. The organizers are left disappointed by the developments and now intends to keep the event a six-team affair as it has little time left to seek for a replacement. Sources say the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) communicated their withdrawal decision through an e-mail recently.

The 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be held from March 13-23 in Ipoh, featuring hosts Malaysia, Australia, Canada, China, South Africa and South Korea. The late pull-out of Pakistan means the organizers will now have to rejig the fixtures, which needs a FIH approval.

Pakistan are the third team to cry out of the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. India had earlier declined an invitation to play as they want to focus on their 2014 World Cup preparations with their national camp around the same time. France was the second team to pull out as they desired to play in the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan instead and were replaced by South Africa.

The organizers are also hard-pressed to alter the duration of the tourney as most of the participating teams have already made their travel plans. Quite clearly, Pakistan’s last minute pull-out have hit the organizers of the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hard.

Don't want players to suffer from burnout, says Roelant Oltmans

This piece was published in

Hockey India seems to be lining up elaborate preparations for the national team for the 2014 Rabobank Men’s World Cup to be held in The Hague, the Netherlands from May 31 to June 15.

The national hockey body has decided to send the national team on a nine-day trip to the Netherlands, where the boys will train at the World Cup venue from April 11-19. India is expected to play five or six practice games against some top sides besides a few games against club sides.“We will play the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany and probably one or two games against club sides. I believe the trip will allow the boys to know what to expect at the World Cup,” Hockey India’s High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans elaborates post Hockey India League scenario said in an exclusive interview.

Oltmans, who served as Uttar Pradesh Wizards coach in the just-concluded 2nd Hero Hockey India League, said the Indian team will reach The Hague well ahead of the commencement of the marquee event. “We will leave on May 22, which will give us adequate time to acclimatize to the conditions before the World Cup begins on May 31. We are going to play a warm-up game against Ireland on May 25 and one more practice game on May 28 or 29 for which our opponent is yet to be confirmed. Reaching the World Cup venue early will stand us in good stead before we launch our campaign against Belgium on May 31,” he added.

The celebrated Dutch coach has revealed that most of the players who figured in the 2nd Hero Hockey India League are likely to give the upcoming Senior Nationals to be held in Lucknow a miss. “Look, these players have been constantly travelling, playing matches, sometimes back-to-back games for nearly a month. Player burnout is the last thing India needs. The Senior National ‘A’ division will start on March 10 a day before the World Cup camp begins. So players are better off by being fresh for the World Cup camp and since both the camp and the nationals are happening around the same time, there is no way the boys can participate in the nationals. It is prudent for these guys to take a well-deserved break after a strenuous run in the HIL and stay in good shape for the camp,” he explained.

The scheduling of the World Cup camp in the second week of March also meant that India had no option but to pull out of the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which is slated to be held in Ipoh from March 13-23. “We had to focus on our World Cup preparations and it would have been unwise to have featured in the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as the dates of this event are clashing with our World Cup camp,” he quipped.

The second phase of the World Cup camp will begin once the team returns from the Netherlands and will run till the team leaves for the Netherlands on May 22.

Oltmans, who as caretaker coach of the national team, shepherded the boys to a runner-up finish in the 9th Asia Cup where they lost narrowly to Korea in the final, in the process sealing a World Cup through the Oceania World Cup quota, refrained from talking about identifying new talents from the 2nd HIL. “I have seen some new talents from the 2nd HIL, but don’t wish to go into the details for now. We will see a lot of new faces during the Senior Nationals and hope to unearth talented guys from the ‘A’ and ‘B’ divisions,” he concluded on an optimistic note.

The venue for the 2014 World Cup camp is yet to be decided.

Monday, February 24, 2014

FIH strikes broadcast deal with Star Sports, ends association with Ten Sports

In what could be more good news for Indian hockey fans after the success of the recently-concluded 2nd Hero Hockey India League, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has inked an eight-year broadcast deal with Star Sports. The long-term deal with Asia’s biggest sports broadcaster means Star Sports will broadcast all FIH-conducted events starting from 2015.

The deal ensures hockey fans can watch live action of premier events like the World Cup, Champions Trophy, Hockey World League, Junior World Cup among others. Significantly, the top-notch broadcaster will beam live action of FIH-organised events across the globe save for Argentina where the world governing body has an existing arrangement. Under the terms of the deal, Star Sports will also enjoy internet, marketing and digital rights of all FIH-sanctioned events.

It may be worth recalling that FIH had a long-standing association with Ten Sports. The world hockey body started its association with Ten Sports in 2005 with a broadcast contract, which was extended in November 2011 for another three years till 2014-end.

The 2014 Rabobank Men’s Hockey World Cup as well as the 2014 men’s and women’s Champions Trophy slated to be in Argentina (Mendoza) and India (Bhubaneshwar) in November and December, will be the high-profile events that Ten Sports will broadcast live this year before the broadcasting baton is handed over to Star Sports from 2015.  

Indian hockey team to train in Netherlands as preparation for World Cup

With the 2nd Hero Hockey India League carnival over, the focus will now shift to the national team’s preparations for the 2014 Rabobank World Cup slated to be held in The Haque, the Netherlands from May 31 to June 15. And Hockey India in a bid to give the boys the best possible preparation has lined up a nine-day exposure tour at the very venue where the big-ticket event will be held.

The Blueshirts will train at Hague from April 11 to 19. The modalities of the tour have also been worked out – the team will play around five-six games during their Dutch stint.

It is learnt that Hockey India was keen to have such an exposure trip going and even withdrew from the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from March 13-23. India are likely to play top European teams like Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and one or two local club teams during their nine-day tour.

It is believed that Hockey India also wants to ensure that the boys stay fresh ahead of the World Cup and not overworked preparation-wise – probably learning from their past experience of having exhaustive preparations on the eve of the 2012 London Olympics, where the country capped its worst-ever performance settling for an ignominious wooden spoon.

The performance at the London Olympics had raised uncomfortable questions about whether the team was a ‘jaded’ lot after a gruelling European tour.

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