It was serious business for Indian coaches, Harendra Singh and Roelant Oltmans, and Argentina’s Mariano Ronconi on Friday evening even though it was just a practice match ahead of the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup, starting here on Thursday.
The two sides went through the routine drills before the game, and the Argentineans were put through a strenuous sprinting session by physio Rivera Victoria, who spoke to each players separately before they went for the warm-up tie at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium under the lights.
Giving instructions and inspiring boys from the sidelines remained routine for the coaches as they chose to make frequent changes in the playing 11 in the 60-minute battle, which saw just two halves instead of four quarters.
“It was quite satisfactory as such a practice match was needed very much before the start of the mega event,” Harendra told HT after India lost to 1-2. “In fact, the match allowed us to assess our planning and its execution. A loss in a practice match makes no serious impact…I am happy the boys really played well.
“Certainly, we came to know about some of the areas in our game where we need to work hard, especially not giving the rivals a chance for counter attack,” said Harendra, adding, “We did miss back-to-back four penalty corners in the dying minutes as we didn’t want to reveal our real weapon. There would be someone else taking the PCs in the real match as we didn’t want to let others know about our variations.”
He, however, admitted that the boys would come up with a different game plan when they play their second and last practice match against Holland on Monday. “You need to have different strategies for different teams, and I find these practice matches quite good for the side to prepare well for the mega event,” he added.
‘A tough side’
Australian coach, in the meantime, admired India’s strength. “We have seen India play at the Australian Hockey League and they look like a strong team to beat,” chief coach Ben Bishop said. “They are clearly one of the favourites in the tournament and a tough team to beat but they will be under pressure playing in front of the home crowd.”
About Australia’s chances in the event, he said they finished third in 2009 and came fifth in 2013, and like others, they too are here to win. “We have had good preparations in the lead-up to the World Cup and the boys are excited to be here. Most of them follow the Hockey India League on TV and they are looking forward to playing some good hockey in front of a big crowd.”
Australia have won the junior World Cup in 1997 while their senior team is ranked No 1 in the world and are also currently the world champions. At the Junior World Cup, the Kookaburras are grouped with Korea, Argentina and Austria.