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CWG: Indian hockey team seeks past Australian villain Chris Ciriello to play hero

The Australian drag-flick expert who spelt misery for Indian hockey team in the last two Commonwealth Games finals will be in their corner during the Gold Coast edition starting on April 4.

other sports Updated: Mar 15, 2018 16:19 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Commonwealth Games,CWG,Gold Coast CWG
Chris Ciriello (right) with Indian hockey team players.(HT Photo)

For former Australian drag-flick specialist Chris Ciriello, the Indian hockey team’s new analytical coach, it is all about mastering the 30s. Ciriello will guide India in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games starting on April 4 and his task will be to iron out the perennial wrinkles in India’s penalty-corner routine.

The 32-year-old played a big hand when Australia confined India to silver medal in the last two CWG editions, in New Delhi (2010) and Glasgow (2014), in fact scoring a hat-trick the last time they clashed for gold in the competition in Scotland.

However, Ciriello will be in India’s corner after he was formally hired by Hockey India to polish the national team’s penalty corner skills. For the Australian, the trick is to break it down.

Ciriello believes No 33 and 34 are keys to succeed in penalty corners as India look to pull off the formidable task of upstaging Australia on their home turf this time.

His explains his calculations. “A drag-flicker’s role is 34 per cent while it is 33 per cent each for pushers and trappers. If they can do justice to their responsibilities, success is yours. This is what I am trying with the Indian team,” Ciriello said.

“We have 33 variations and 33 things to do whenever we get a penalty corner. Converting PCs is the combination of all aspects and I always bank on this system.

“Over the next 10 days, until the team leaves for Gold Coast, I will work closely with drag-flickers and injectors (pushers),” said Ciriello.

It is not only about converting penalty corners; defending them is equally important, he said.

Ciriello linked up with India first during the four-nation tournament in New Zealand in January, before formally coming on board at the national camp in Bangalore ahead of the recent Azlan Shah Cup. Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas are all drag-flickers in the India squad. Skipper Manpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh and Chinglensana Singh are the injectors.

“The Indian team has some very exciting drag-flickers and it’s a good opportunity for me to work with them,” said Ciriello, who is familiar with many Indian players, having played in the Hockey India League.

“Many of them are friends and I have played alongside them, so working with them wasn’t a problem. I believe in every match India need to have 3-4 drag-flickers as it keeps the rivals guessing your move and variations,” said Ciriello, nicknamed ‘The Big Dog’.

Though he played an important role in keeping India down the the last two CWG finals, Ciriello said he would expect India to finish on in Gold Coast. “I would love to cherish the moment for India this time as I have seen this twice for Australia,” he said.

First Published: Mar 14, 2018 18:45 IST