Harendra Singh and his boys aren’t in the mood to let the opportunity go and are targeting a podium finish in the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup, which starts here on December 8.
“This time, we will hoist the flag,” said Harendra, after the 16-member team arrived here on Wednesday afternoon. The coach is hoping to make the most of the home conditions and reclaim the title India last won in 2001 at Hobart, Australia.
“Repeating the golden success of 2001 will be on everybody’s mind when we start training at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Thursday, and none of us are ready to accept anything less than a podium finish,” said Harendra, adding, “I am sure we will play the final on December 18.”
After losing to Australia 2-3 in the final at Milton Keynes, England, in 1997, the team coached by Rajinder Singh Sr, and comprising the likes of Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh, Devesh Chauhan, Arjun Halappa and Viren Rasquinha, defeated Argentina 6-1 in the final four years later.
In 2005, the team coached by Harendra had lost to Spain 5-6 in tie-break in the bronze-medal match at Rotterdam. Since then, a podium finish has eluded them in the Junior World Cup.
India slipped to the ninth position in 2009 and thereafter stood 10th in the 2013 edition despite hosting the event for the first time.
However, the recent success of the teams in all age groups and the good buildup of Harendra’s team have raised hopes.
“The team’s recent showing in international events and with our preparations on the right track, I don’t see any obstacle in our way to success,” said Harendra.
“Results of the juniors in this World Cup will decide how India does at the Tokyo Olympics, as many of my boys will be there to stake a claim for a berth in the senior side,” he said.
Harendra admitted advice from the senior team’s chief coach and Hockey India’s high-performance director Roelant Oltmans would be of great help. “We discuss plans and I tell the boys to follow them. It’s working well.”
Soon after the first training session on Thursday, the team will be naming the captain and vice-captain for the event. The team includes drag-flicker and defender Harmanpreet Singh, who has been nominated for the 2016 Rising Star of the Year award by the FIH.