The Indian men’s hockey team will strive to enhance its penalty corner conversion rate as it squares off against lowly Singapore in a second pool A match of the Asian Games on Tuesday. The heavily favored India defeated lowly Uzbekistan 16-0 in their tournament opener on Sunday, but the side led by Harmanpreet Singh knows that there is room for improvement. Specifically, when it comes to penalty corners, the Indian team has missed their opportunities despite having a formidable group of drag-flickers. Captain Harmanpreet, who was rested in the opening match, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas, and Sanjay form a formidable force in the penalty corner attack.
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Despite that, India converted only five out of the 14 penalty corners they earned in the match against Uzbekistan, which is a cause for concern for chief coach Craig Fulton heading into the game against Singapore.
The good news is that Harmanpreet will play Tuesday’s match, and based on his reputation, the responsibility in the penalty corner division will be on him.
However, the positive aspect of India’s performance against Uzbekistan is their display in the forward-line, as 10 out of the 16 goals came from field play.
Lalit Upadhyay shone brightly in the forward-line, scoring four excellent goals, while Mandeep Singh was a dynamic presence, finding the net three times and setting up a few assists for his teammates.
The midfield, led by Manpreet Singh, vice-captain Hardik Singh, and Vivek Sagar Prasad, will look to continue their consistent performance.
Fulton, however, will be cautious about the fact that the Indian defense has barely been tested against Uzbekistan, as goalkeepers PR Sreejesh and Krishan Bahadur Pathak remained mere spectators throughout the entire 60 minutes and did not have to make a single save.
Ranked third in the world, India is the top team in the tournament, while Singapore is placed 49th, and Fulton’s boys are expected to have a comfortable win and secure their second consecutive victory.
Singapore’s morale will be low after suffering an 0-11 defeat at the hands of Pakistan in their opening match, which does not bode well for them as India thrashed them 15-1 in their last encounter back in 2012.
The Indian team will be looking to maintain their confidence and carry the winning momentum into their two tough pool matches against title holders Japan on September 28 and arch-rivals Pakistan on September 30, before concluding the campaign against Bangladesh on October 2.
Fulton, India’s chief coach known for his tactical brilliance, emphasized that continuity in performance is essential to win the Asian Games.
“Our focus is always on the next game. While our opening win was impressive, we are committed to maintaining our performance levels and fine-tuning our strategies. Every match is an opportunity to learn and grow as a team,” he said.
Skipper Harmanpreet also expects the team to maintain their momentum.
“We started the tournament on a high note, but we know that each match presents a unique challenge. We are here to compete, give our best, and make our nation proud,’ he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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