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Hockey World Cup: Former stars Somaya, D’Souza, Mascarenhas hope India end medal drought at home

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Mumbai, Jan 12 Between them they have the experience of playing five Hockey World Cups and thus former India captain MM Somaya, Edgar Mascarenhas and Adrian D’Souza believes the upcoming edition of the mega event starting in Rourkela on Friday is a huge opportunity for India to end the four-decade medal drought in the mega event.

Somaya has played in two World Cups, Mascarenhas in the 1990 event in Pakistan and D’Souza in the 2006 and 2010 editions. But all three believe that with India playing at home and considering the amount of time the players have spent together as a team, the 16-team event being held at Rourkela and Bhubaneswar is a great opportunity for them.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the Indian team as we are not sure when we will host the World Cup again. The players have been together at the camp since the Covid-19 pandemic. India won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics — a medal after four decades, and we have a good team,” said Somaya, a member of the team that won India’s last gold medal at the Olympics in 1980.

“Going by a couple of indicators — we are ranked sixth in the World, have a settled side — and judging by how we’ve done in the tournaments after the Olympics — we have done reasonably well — I believe India has a good chance of finishing at the podium,” Somaya said an event organised by the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai where he along with Mascarenhas and D’Souza analysed India’s prospects at the World Cup starting on Friday.

“There is one other reason why I think we’ve got a good chance is that most of the other teams are either rebuilding or have older players — like in the case of Belgium. The only teams which have a balance of youth and experience are Australia and India. So, this is a wonderful opportunity for us. We may not get a similar batch for the next few years,” he said.

Adrian D’Souza felt that the Indian team should not settle for anything less than a gold medal. He talked about some of coach Graham Reid’s tactics like changing goalkeeper after every quarter and felt that the move has its merits and demerits as the goalkeeper could lose the adrenalin rush if he is changed even after pulling off some sensational saves.

Along with Harmanpreet and Manpreet Singh, D’Souza picked goalkeeper P.R Sreejesh, his understudy in the 2010 World Cup, as the key player for India. Somaya said the team management has done well by bringing young players like Abhishek, Sukhjeet and Jarmanpreet Singh into the squad after the Olympics.

Edgar Mascarenhas noted the team’s improved fitness in recent times and noted the good work done by the backroom staff.

“India will be among the semifinalists,” said Mascarenhas adding that the team is too much dependent on Harmanpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh, which could be a problem in case they have an off-day.

Somaya said the Indians are in a tough group with Spain, England and Wales as their opponents. Both Somaya and D’Souza said the current format was easier than the old system as teams can still recover from setbacks and make it to the quarterfinals through the crossover matches.

“Earlier, if you lost a couple of matches, your chances of reaching the knockout stage were as good as over. But in this new system, you can still finish third in the group and still manage to get through to the quarterfinals through the crossovers. It gives a chance to recover from a bad start,” he said.

–NAIJAONPOINT

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