Indian men's hockey team chief coach Graham Reid has said that the tough competition against top nations in the 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League season will help his team prepare best for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
"It's very encouraging to have international competition restarting and the Hockey Pro League will give us that tough top level competition as a lead-up to the Olympic Games next year," Reid said.
The Indian team had made an emphatic start to their maiden Hockey Pro League campaign earlier this year with a 5-2 and 3-3 (3-1) win against the Netherlands, followed by a 2-1 win and 3-4 loss against World Champions Belgium and 3-4 loss and 2-2 (3-1) win against Australia before the Covid-19 pandemic halted the competition.
They will now resume their campaign in the 2020 season when they play Argentina on April 10 and 11 next year in the revamped schedule. They will then face Great Britain away from home on May 8 and 9 before travelling to Spain to play matches on May 12 and 13. The team will take on Germany in away matches on May 18 and 19 before finally playing a home tie on May 29 and 30 against New Zealand.
"We are also working at the moment to ensure that we have enough competition throughout the latter part of 2020 and the early part of 2021," stated Reid adding that the team will be preparing for the Asian Champions Trophy that is scheduled for November this year.
"We have the Asian Champions Trophy still planned for November 2020 and a trip to Malaysia to play the Netherlands and a 4 Nations Tournament in New Zealand in February 2021 which are all in the planning stage at the moment as part of our ACTC," he said.
With a continued rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in India, India skipper Manpreet Singh feels the scheduling provides enough time for the team to prepare for a major tournament like the Hockey Pro League.
"We were delighted by the news of a revised schedule for Hockey Pro League. With the rise in number of cases in India, it may take a while before travel restrictions are lifted for international competition."
"Our travel this year for any tournaments will purely depend on the government guidelines, so under these circumstances, we need to be sensitive towards what's happening around us and channel our focus on preparation. We will use this time to revisit our goals and areas that we need to improve," Manpreet opined.
He emphasised that the weather in Europe in April and May would suit the Indian team.
"Also, I think the weather in Europe in April and May would be ideal for us as the winter months would have ended. April in Argentina is also supposed to have the best weather to play hockey and it won't be hot and humid," reckoned the midfielder.
The Indian skipper further stated that back-to-back matches will be the right litmus test for the team before the Tokyo Olympic Games. "I feel after the 4-week gap between our matches against Argentina and Great Britain, we will play back-to-back matches almost every weekend right until the end of May and that's the kind of momentum we are looking for ahead of the Olympic Games."
"We will test our body and mind during this time to see how we can cope the pressure of playing back-to-back high intensity games and manage the load well. This will be ideal test for us before the Olympics," he said.