Saturday, September 20, 2014

India seek to make the most of battered Sri Lanka in Asiad opener

The start of the Indian men’s hockey team’s campaign in the Asian Games against Sri Lanka has been made a tad easier by the mauling defending champions Pakistan inflicted on the latter. Clearly, the morale of the Sri Lankans will be at low ebb after the opening game thrashing, which will offer India a significant advantage in their tournament opener. Sri Lanka – ranked 40th in the world - are no way going to pose a serious threat to India; at best, they can only hope that they don’t lose by another big margin like they did against Pakistan.

India, no doubt, will enjoy the psychological advantage against the battered morale of the Lankans, who will be pushed hard to avoid a second consecutive defeat. From the Indian perspective, head coach Terry Walsh will be keen to see that the team racks up two convincing wins in their first two games so that they are not short on confidence in their much hyped clash with arch-rivals Pakistan on Thursday.

The Indians have a knack of starting tournament campaigns on a sluggish note, but at Incheon they must look to skirt such a scenario as it could dent their pool-topping chances in a big way. Skipper Sardar Singh will look to marshal his troops on the pitch and nothing but a facile win will satisfy the billion hockey fans of the country.

Making the right noises holds the key to India’s progress to the knockout stage and complacency should be a big ‘no’. We all know how India failed to qualify for the Asia Cup semifinals in 2009 for the first time ever because of a 2-2 draw with China. This time around China are pitted in Pool B alongside India and the latter must guard against loose play as it is not really difficult for stunning upsets to happen in modern hockey replete with fast-paced stuff.

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