Hockey World Cup 2018: Recent lapses notwithstanding, former Australia forward Glenn Turner impressed with India’s defence
Glenn Turner’s comments come as a morale boost for India, who, despite topping their Pool, have shown worrying slip-ups in defence.
Bhubaneswar: London Olympics bronze medallist and two-time World Cup winner, Glenn Turner, has thrown his weight behind India’s defence even as the Indian backline is yet to hit top form at the ongoing Hockey World Cup at Bhubaneswar. Turner said he was impressed with the control of India’s defenders in the striking circle, and hailed Birendra Lakra and Harmanpreet Singh for their defensive skills.
“The boys in India have always played on bumpy surfaces like grass or dirt, where you have to be good as a receiver. The way they receive the ball is amazing. To be able to do it (receive the ball cleanly) under pressure in the circle as well as they do outside the circle is and just unique. Also, the way they move, their skill, the way they take people on in one-on-one situations is great.
“Some of the defenders are so good. I love Birendra Lakra; I have played against him for a while and the way he uses his body in the ring, his little shimmy–shakes, those little movements are all quite unique. Harmanpreet Singh at the back is cool. I played against him at the Hockey India League (HIL), and he was amazing. To me, he could be the world’s best player,” Turner, who helped Kalinga Lancers win the 2017 edition of the league, said. Harmanpreet represented Dabang Mumbai in that edition and was adjudged the Upcoming Player of the Tournament.
Turner’s comments are encouraging for India, who, despite topping their Pool, have shown worrying slip-ups in defence. While South Africa applied tremendous pressure in the Indian ‘D’ in the third quarter, Belgium tested India’s nerve in the breathless first half, where their continuous circle penetrations resulted in an eighth-minute goal. Meanwhile, Harmanpreet, India’s leading drag-flicker, has missed more than he has hit. So far, he has nailed just one penalty corner and a penalty stroke despite taking maximum flicks.
Turner also had high praise for India’s forward line. “Lalit Upadhyay has been good. Mandeep (Singh) always impresses but I hope he gets a couple of goals in the next game or two. At the moment, he hasn’t scored much, but he is a very confident player. Sumit has impressed. I wish I had some of the skills these boys have, but they have to use it at the right time.”
“India are much more structured now. They are a lot fitter, and they make better decisions. And they are using their unique skills in match situations for the benefit of the team,” he added.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist also credited HIL for team’s fitness evolution and said that India are good enough to beat any team in the competition. “I think they are great. They are fit, fast, very skilfully. They have learnt a lot from HIL. They are not scared of any team. On their day, they can beat any team. They will be a hard team to beat in this competition.”
India’s only area of improvement, according to Turner, is their temperament. The 34-year-old urged the team to back its training to deliver at the global stage. “The calmness, I guess (is an area where India can work on). They have to go in and back their ability and training. They should not worry about outside things like the fans, the other teams. That could disintegrate a campaign and I’m sure that’s not what they want to do.”
Turner has recently ended his eight-day camp with the strikers of national women’s team, and is still playing professional hockey in Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia. He said he is willing to return to India and for a longer stint, but didn’t confirm any developments.
Experienced drag-flick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh as well as Varun Kumar, who had missed out the previous tour owing to rehab, are also back in the mix.
Compared to Argentina, India have played more games since hockey resumed post the coronavirus-induced stoppage and also got time to rectify issues and work on their game.
With the visitors ahead only by a goal, the last quarter was a battle of nerves with the home team stepping on the gas to secure an equaliser.