The 30-minute cab ride from the international airport to the Perth Hockey Stadium, the venue for the Lanco International Super Series 9-a-side tournament, was fast but smooth.At the stadium too, the buzzword was 'fast and steady'. A new format will unfold on Thursday, which is being touted as the T20 of hockey. "The matches will be played at a very fast clip," said Shaun Andreson, a top Hockey Australia official.
"The new rules are expected to attract more people. It will also give players the opportunity to display their skills as well as speed, which will be a thrilling experience for the hockey fraternity of the city," he said.
The tournament is significant for the Indian team as chief coach, Michael Nobbs, is from Australia and his team would be pitted against hockey guru, Ric Charlesworth's squad, who is the head coach of the Australian team.
Nobbs and Ric are old friends and have, in fact, played some international matches together, but when the two teams clash, the camaraderie will be forgotten. Charlesworth's team will enjoy a slight advantage as Australia have already qualifed for the 2012 London Olympic Games, while it's a tough road ahead for Nobbs and his boys.
Nobbs is familiar with the Australian style, and it would be interesting to see what strategy he applies against the home team. On the eve of the tournament, he spent quite some time giving tips to the players, as he wants to give a good account of himself in front of his people.
If Nobbs and his ward are keen on making an impression in the tournament, which also features Pakistan, Malaysia and New Zealand, the Indian women suffered a setback as deputy skipper, Jasjeet Kaur, is yet to recover from a nose injury she suffered recently in a friendly match in Perth. "Let's see if she recovers. Otherwise, she will watch the matches from the stands," said coach CR Kumar.
The women's team had a practice session with yellow balls for the first time on Thursday.
The writer's trip has been sponsored by Commune Sports & Entertainment