Indian Men’s hockey team to take on Belgium in Champions Challenge I
After losing an automatic berth in the Champions Trophy, the Indian hockey team forced to play the Champions Challenge I, set to be played in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the first assignment, India will take on Belgium, the 12th ranked team
according to the world rankings.
Despite the Indian team did not have practice sessions and warm-up games, it is anxiously waiting to open their campaign on a positive note.
Downpour and inclement weather over the past few days hurt their plans and strategies they wanted to test in the practice games.
Due to torrential rains and water logging pitches, the warm up game between India and Malaysia called off after only 20 minutes of play while second, between India and Canada, did not start at all.
Chief Indian Coach, Michael Nobbs, was not satisfied with the practice-less opening. However, he observed, “It’s disappointing, but no team would want to risk injury in such conditions.
In another drawback, a couple of Indian short corner masters including V Raghunath and striker Sarvanjit Singh caught an altitude illness. Johannesburg is located over 5,800 feet above sea level that makes foreign players sick and uncomfortable.
Michael Nobbs commented on the players’ illness saying, “These two are feeling altitude sickness right now, but will get over that in a few days”.
India is placed at the 10th position in the world’s rankings, the second after the Argentina, the 8th place according to the ranks.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Indian hockey team, as a host nation, was scheduled to contest the FIH Champions Trophy.
However, the world’s governing body moved the event from New Delhi to Auckland, New Zealand, over the sport’s governing issues in India. The ongoing dispute between derecognised Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI) was the main reason behind
the FIH concerns.
The shift of venue forced India to go for the Champions Challenge whose winner will get a direct berth into the 2012 Champions Trophy.
Conversely, the situation is not as much comfortable for India as it should be. The opening game with sick players and without practice sessions will test the endurance of the India team. They will have to show their worth if they want to go confidently
in the Olympic Qualifiers.