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Hockey World League Final: Indian team plays cricket to forge bonding

Indian hockey team indulged in a game of cricket during a training session ahead of Hockey World Leage Final in Bhubanswar

other sports Updated: Nov 30, 2017 09:38 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Hockey World Leage Final,Rupinder Pal Singh,Indian hockey team
Indian hockey team member Varun Kumar during a practice session ahead of Hockey World Leage Final.(Hockey India)

Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh did a Ravichandran Ashwin on Wednesday. Gripping the ball like the India off-spinner, Rupinder sent down a few deliveries with the white hockey ball on the astroturf, beating teammates with his spin and bounce, before being hit for a boundary by Mandeep Singh on his very last delivery.

That brought the curtains down on the India hockey team’s strenuous but fruitful training session on Wednesday, ahead of the Hockey World League Final, starting at the Kalinga stadium here on  Friday. Before India meet mighty Australia in their first league match under lights on Friday, Germany will take on England in the opener.

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“Sometimes such activities (playing hockey cricket-style) are good to break the monotony and allow players to relax and enjoy the sport,” said skipper Manpreet, adding, “The important thing is that it creates a bond among players and gives them a sense of commitment.”

Manpreet also seemed to be enjoying the break from the routine with the team support staff too joining the fun.

But, the fun activity apart, Manpreet sounded serious and business-like when asked about India’s campaign in the tournament. “We aren’t taking any opposition lightly. They all are top teams in the world and every match is going to be important.”

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“Rather than bother about our shortcomings, we’ll play to our strengths and home advantage,” he said, adding, “The mantra for success is simple: We need to give our best in every match.”

He, however, did not divulge the team’s strategy. “Yes, we too have our strategies for each team. What we have in store for them will be known when we take the field,” said the captain, who will be playing his 200th international match on Friday.

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Terming the practice matches quite good, Manpreet praised coach Sjoerd Marijne for helping players know their strengths and weaknesses. “The best thing about him is that he understands us well and we understand him too. We are just following his instructions,” he said. It was also a day when young goalkeepers — Akash Chikte and Suraj Karkera — were put through extended back-breaking sessions.

Once the team’s training session was over, Chikte and Karkera were positioned at different goalposts and all the hard hitters were asked to shoot from different angles. However, the duo was up to the challenge, parrying away almost all the full-blooded shots with elan. “The goalkeeper is the last line of defence, and if he is good, you can win a game even after scoring just one goal,” said Manpreet.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 19:18 IST