Thursday, July 24, 2014

Commonwealth Games: Indian men lock horns with minnows Wales

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The so-called ‘easy games’ in tournament openers are ideal to set the tone for the team and seemingly, the Sardar Singh-led Indian senior men’s hockey team will seek to make the most of it when they take on minnows Wales in the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the Glasgow National Hockey Center in Glasgow on Friday.

The 31st ranked Wales – the lowest ranked side in the competition – is unlikely to show serious signs of stringing an upset win over the 9th ranked Indians, who appeared to have hit the straps after dishing out an impressive display in the couple of warm-up games against higher ranked sides. The Terry Walsh-side can take heart from their 3-2 win over 5th ranked England and a narrow 2-3 loss to 6th ranked New Zealand in the pre-tournament warm-ups.

Sardar Singh – touted as the world’s best centre-half – will look to marshal his troops on the pitch and count on the experience of goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, midfielder Gurbaj Singh, as well as the troika of forwards – Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Gurvinder Singh Chandi – five survivors of the 2010 CWG squad.

India have faced Wales only once in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur CWG and thumped them 6-3. Given the recent form of India, the team can expect nothing more than a stroll in the park on Friday. They key to India’s success will be how the forwardline, which is boosted by the return of Gurwinder Singh Chandi, functions. When on song, Chandi alongside Dharamvir (scored four goals in the 2010 edition), SV Sunil, Danish Mujtaba can form a lethal combo with young turks Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah providing support.

Indian midfield wears a robust look with Sardar and Gurbaj forming a fulcrum alongside Birendra Lakra and Manpreet Singh. Goalkeeper Sreejesh will seek to continue his good run in the recent World Cup in Glasgow.

A decent win is imperative for India as they have to counter the likes of 12th ranked South Africa and top-ranked Australia in other group games to secure a semifinal passage and beyond.

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