Ask any Indian hockey coach — senior or junior — about his main area of concern during a camp and the prompt answer would be fitness. It was no different when AK Bansal, chief coach of the junior men's team, and his deputy Clarence Lobo sat down to prepare details for the final camp at Bhopal before the Junior World Cup in Singapore-Malaysia from June 7.
An increase in the number of participating teams means a gruelling event in which a team will play nearly 13 matches in nine days if it reaches the final.
The 20 teams have been divided into four groups of five each with the top two from each pool advancing to the Super League of two pools of four teams each and will fight for the 1-8 positions. The bottom three teams in each group will be divided into three pools and will fight for the 9th to 20th positions.
“We gave extra attention to fitness and the players have responded superbly to the workouts,” Lobo told HT on Sunday.
The coaching staff is also worried about the hot and humid conditions.
“The conditions can change within minutes and scorching heat could be followed by torrential rain. We have prepared the boys for that and planned for all situations,” he said.
The team has had sessions under lights, as it will be playing a number of matches late evening. The new turf at the Seng Kang Sports and Recreation Centre in Singapore is also a concern.
“The turf is untested and the bounce and speed of the ball is uneven on such turfs. We will have to be extra cautious initially,” Lobo said.