Commonwealth Games 2018: India men's hockey team look to make statement of intent by winning gold in World Cup year

If India men's hockey team can clinch the gold medal at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, it will be a big statement from the side considering this is a World Cup year. India have selected an 18-man squad, which will be captained by midfielder Manpreet Singh while Chinglensana Singh Kangujam will be his deputy. Despite missing veteran Sardar Singh, who was not selected for the Gold Coast Games, this Indian squad have the potential to come out on top. But the task will not be an easy one, especially against the likes of Australia and England.

 Commonwealth Games 2018: India mens hockey team look to make statement of intent by winning gold in World Cup year

Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh.

Under Manpreet's leadership, India have done well as they lifted the Asia Cup last year followed by a bronze medal feat at the Men’s Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar. Head coach Sjoerd Marijne, who was appointed last year after Roelant Oltmans was sacked, showed previously that he picks his team based on attacking prowess and he followed the similar pattern for the Commonwealth Games. Apart from Manpreet, midfielders Chinglensana, Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad were selected because all of them can score.

"We had competition for midfield positions. Manpreet picks himself but Sardar was a contender for the other slot. The players finally picked are more diverse than Sardar, they can also score, all three of them (Chinglensana, Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad). They are also good defenders in the midfield and are fast as forwards," Marijne was quoted saying by the Hindustan Times.

India's forward line is a combination of experience and youth as SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh make the cut for the Games. Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh will lead India’s defence along with Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh and Amit Rohidas.

Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh made a strong comeback from injury this year and there was no reason for him to be dropped. The 22-year-old talent Suraj Karkera has been selected as the second-choice goalkeeper.

India have played attacking brand of hockey since Marijne took control of the team. He prefers a fast game with creative players dominating the midfield. So far, the system worked for India but there are also areas of concerns, especially in the defense. Unlike Oltmans, Marijne's focus is not much on the defense. At the Four Nations Invitational Hockey tournament in New Zealand, where India did well to reach the finals in both the legs, it was their defense that let them down. At the Commonwealth Games 2018, India will face England in the group stage. England's game will be similar to that of India and that's where the defense has to come out good.

The team will also look to do good when it comes to converting the penalty corners. In the last few tournaments, the conversion rate of penalty corners has been a problem with the likes of Rupinder and Harmanpreet not being clinical enough. Marijne should look to fix this issue before the team takes the flight to Gold Coast.

India have never won the gold medal at Commonwealth Games and in the previous two editions, they have finished behind Australia, who clinched the gold. But captain Manpreet wants to turn things around this time.

“Our first aim is to do well in the group stage because we have some strong teams in our Pool. It’s extremely crucial to top our table and make the semi-final but if we do meet Australia in the knockouts, I believe we will be up for a strong challenge,” Manpreet had told Indian Express.

India have been grouped in Pool B along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales and England. They will begin their campaign on 7 April against arch-rivals Pakistan.

Updated Date: Mar 23, 2018 16:59:23 IST

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