Hockey has a special following here as it remains the land of greats such as Major Dhyan Chand and Kunwar Digvijai Singh ‘Babu’.
Fans, especially youngsters, love to greet hockey player donning India jersey. This love and following for the game took the India team by surprise when they found hundreds of fans gathering to watch their maiden training session under lights at the Padma Shri Mohammed Shahid Synthetic Hockey Stadiumon Monday evening.
“I took my grandson to the venue this evening as I wanted him to see the India players and watch their game. I want him to be a big hockey player,” Ram Chandra Srivastava, a former hockey player, told HT after his grandson shook hands with junior India captain Harjeet Singh.
“I have never missed a single match of the India senior team (on TV) in the last five years. I know I am going to get the same entertainment watching juniors play knowing that many of them will be there at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” added Srivastava.
At the ground, Hockey India’s high performance director Roelant Oltmans and coach Harendra Singh were seen giving suggestions to the officials in-charge of the Astroturf. Later, the players were put through a rigorous session where the focus was on scoring goals.
India will be playing their opening game against Canada in Pool D of the Junior World Cup starting December 8 at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium. The 10-day practice time ahead of the mega event seems perfect for their mission.
“We tried different tactics, player positioning and goal-scoring moves. The boys are upbeat and focused,” said Oltmans, adding, “We will be playing a practice match with Argentina on December 2 to fine tune our game.”
The training began with warm up followed by a short-pass drill, penalty-corner conversion for drag-flickers, while goalkeepers worked with South African Dave Staniforth.
“We have trained on the new turf at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium. The boys are getting used to the new turf. It is similar to the one in Bengaluru’s SAI centre where the boys have been based for almost 10 months,” he said.
The team will play its second practice match on December 5 against the Netherlands. “We will meet these two teams, with whom we will play practice matches, only in the semifinals or the final,” he asserted.