New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) The chief coach of the Indian men’s hockey team, Craig Fulton is all geared up for his first assignment with the team as they will travel to Europe for the FIH Pro League 2022-2023 with the matches starting May 26.
In the FIH Men’s Hockey Pro League 2022/23 matches played so far during the home leg played in Rourkela last year, the Indian team put up a solid performance and remained unbeaten against reigning World Champions Germany and Australia, which helped them climb up to top of the points table.
Now, under the guidance of Fulton, who joined the team at the India national coaching camp at Centre, Bengaluru on April 29, the Indian men’s team will aim to continue their winning momentum as they take on reigning Olympic champions Belgium (May 26 and June 2) and hosts Great Britain (May 27 and June 3) in London.
The Indian team will then travel to Eindhoven, the Nehterlands to take on hosts and world No.1 Netherlands (June 7 and 10) and conclude their campaign in the prestigious nine-team competition with ties against world No.7 Argentina (June 8 and 11).
Speaking on the team’s preparation during a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Craig Fulton, who has nearly 25 years of coaching experience, said, “We had intensive running and conditioning sessions in the build-up for our upcoming competitions. Moreover, we are focusing on the group of players who have been selected to play in the FIH Pro League in Europe and they are being trained in a certain way.”
“Players are riding high on confidence courtesy of their brilliant display in Rourkela, where they defeated Australia and Germany. They also understand what I want from them and are performing well in training, which is definitely a good sign for us as a group ahead of our upcoming Pro League matches,” he added.
Fulton further said that the FIH men’s hockey Pro League 2022/23 in Europe will be a great opportunity for the team to compete against top-ranked teams and further improve their overall game ahead of the 19th Asian Games in China, which is a crucial tournament apropos the qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“Our priority is to win the Asian Games as it will ensure our direct qualification for the Paris Olympics. So, in that sense, FIH Pro League, as well as other lined-up tournaments including Asian Champions Trophy is of vital importance for us as they will not only enhance our preparations but also help us emerge as the title contender in the Asian Games in China later this year.”
Ace drag-flicker and defender Harmanpreet Singh will lead the Indian team during their upcoming matches in Europe, while prolific midfielder Hardik Singh will serve as the Vice-Captain.
Meanwhile, Skipper Harmanpreet said there will not be many changes from the structure and tactics that the team implemented during their Pro League matches in Rourkela.
“Our performance against Australia and Germany was a big confidence booster for us, hence we will aim to follow the similar structure that we followed in Rourkela. However, the Chief Coach has instructed us to focus on solidifying our defence, so, we are preparing accordingly,” Harmanpreet said.
The schedule (all times IST):
May 26: India Vs Belgium at 1900 hrs
May 27: India vs Great Britain at 2130 hrs
June 2: India vs Belgium at 1900 hrs
June 3: India vs Great Britain at 1700 hrs
June 7: India vs Netherlands at 2300 hrs
June 8: India vs Argentina at 2030 hrs
June 10: India vs Netherlands at 2100 hrs
June 11: India vs Argentina at 2100 hrs