INDIAN HOCKEY TEAM GET THE RIGHT BOOST IN THE TORNAMENT

Team India preparing themselves for their tournament
INDIAN HOCKEY TEAM GET THE RIGHT BOOST IN THE TORNAMENT

Like everything else in Indian hockey, the men's team too had a roller-coaster ride in 2018, in the build-up to the World Cup in Bhubaneswar. India started the year with the New Zealand tour in January where they played two invitational tournaments against the same teams — Belgium, Japan, and the hosts.

Coached by Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne and led by Manpreet Singh, the team reached the final in both events, narrowly losing to Belgium, the only team India lost to in those eight matches.

A month later, India took part in their first major tournament of the year – the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh. Veteran Sardar Singh returned as skipper after being ignored in the previous few tournaments and was handed a young and inexperienced team to take on the likes of world champions Australia and Olympic champions Argentina.

The biggest news thereafter was Sardar announcing his retirement. Tired of frequent inclusions and exclusions, the backbone of Indian hockey for almost a decade called it quits. The Asian Games heartbreak also cost Sreejesh his post as Manpreet returned as captain for the Asian Champions Trophy.

The defending champions returned unbeaten from Muscat, winning five games and drawing one. The final against Pakistan was abandoned because of rain and the teams were declared joint winners. It came at the right time, boosting the team's confidence ahead of the World Cup.

A 23-day camp in November has also prepared the team to take on the best at the quadrennial event which begins with India taking on South Africa on November 28.

India in 2018 – Played: 43, Won: 26, Lost: 11, Draws: 5, NR: 1

Performance in 2018

Four-Nation Invitational (Jan 14-28; Tauranga and Hamilton)

Lost to Belgium 1-2 (final)

Lost to Belgium 4-4 (0-3) (final)

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (March 3-10; Ipoh)

Beat Ireland 4-1 (5th-6th playoff)

Commonwealth Games (April 4-15, Gold Coast)

Lost to England 1-2 (bronze medal match)

Champions Trophy (June 23-July 1; Breda)

Lost to Australia 1-1 (1-3) (final)

India vs. New Zealand (July 17-23, Bengaluru)

Beat New Zealand 3-0 in three-match series

Asian Games (August 19-September 1; Jakarta)

Beat Pakistan 2-1 (bronze medal match)

Asian Champions Trophy (October 18-28, Muscat)

No result vs. Pakistan (final) 

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