Bengaluru [India], Apr 22 (ANI): With just few days to go for the commencement of the 26th Sultan of Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, Indian men's hockey team skipper PR Sreejesh believes mental toughness can help his side to defeat top teams like Australia in the upcoming tournament.
With a fresh outlook, new tactics and youngsters in the fold, the Indian team will leave for the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tonight from the Kempegowda International Airport, here in Bengaluru.
The tournament is the first major event in this year's international calendar for the Indian Senior Men's team and getting off to a good start here will be crucial in the lead-up to an all-important year where India play the Asia Cup and Odisha Men's Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017.
"While getting off to a good start is important, the most important thing for me is the finish - in December when we really have to be good. This tournament in Malaysia will give us an indication on the things we expect and test ourselves to see if the progress I expect to see is really on," explained Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans ahead of their departure.
In Malaysia, India take on Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, Japan and hosts Malaysia. While India will be vying to improve their silver medal-finish last year, beating Australia will be on their minds as the team has been a nemesis for long. At the previous edition of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, India lost the final to Australia. At the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy in London too, it was Australia who denied India the coveted gold medal in the final.
"Yes, in a way Australia has been a tough team to beat. Until last year they had a lot of senior players and were the most experienced team. In pressure situations, their past performances really helped them cope with that pressure and come up with good results. But I think now, our team has experienced youngsters, who can turn the matches around. In tournaments like these it's important to beat top teams like Australia so that you can develop your confidence," stated team captain PR Sreejesh.
The goalkeeper captain emphasized that it will be about how tough the team is mentally that will eventually decide results in the tournament.
"We have improved a lot mentally over the past year. In tough situations, in quarterfinals, we have beaten big teams and moved to semis. We need to show consistent improvement, in tough match and we need to raise the bar and perform well," he added.
While India will play with a mix of young and experienced players in the team, Australia too come in with a fresh looking squad. "Australia come in as a new team, with new coaching staff a and mix of young and experienced players. We play them in the third match so we get to watch two of their matches before we play against them. That way we will get to make analyses of their game and make specific plans to play against them," stated Oltmans.
It's an added advantage that the Indian team, equipped with a new support staff, had a 40-day long national camp where the team was put through a tough regime involving nearly five-six hours of intense training.
"We deliberately had a 40-day camp. Physically I wanted them to be at a good starting point so there was a lot of emphasis on that and I believe we have succeeded in achieving that level. With new players coming into the squad, the understanding between players had to grow. New style of play needed to be adapted to and the best place to get confirmations is in big tournaments and we go to Malaysia to test ourselves," concluded the 62-year-old Oltmans.
India will begin their campaign against Great Britain on April 29.(ANI)