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India can finish in the top six at Hockey World Cup: Terry Walsh

India coach feels his wards have the talent and skill to cause some upsets at the Hague

India hockey coach Terry Walsh's 18-member squad which was announced yesterday for the upcoming FIH World Cup to be played in the Hague, Netherlands from May 31, has an interesting mix of youth and experience.

India coach Terry Walsh (in foreground) gives instructions to his team in New Delhi
India coach Terry Walsh (in foreground) gives instructions to his team in New Delhi 

Promising youngsters like goalkeeper Harjot Singh and midfielder Jasjit Singh have been given a look-in, with the Aussie coach justifying their selection based on the future scope of the national game.

Walsh spoke to mid-day about his selected squad, the prominent names dropped and the Indian team's prospects at the prestigious event.

Q. On his experience with the Indian set-up this far…
A. India is very proud of its hockey, but there are still a lot of things they need to grasp. For example, in modern hockey, it is mandatory to infuse a number of substitutions. But here if you substitute a senior player, he does not like it and even the crowd reacts sharply. If you look at the nationals here, on an average, there are only around 6-7 substitutions made, whereas in an international match there are at least 16-17. In fact, in the 2002 World Cup final, which was played in hot conditions in Malaysia, Germany made over 50 rolling substitutions against Australian and won. Indian hockey is talking time to grasp these little things, but there is certainly no dearth of talent here.

Q. On the idea behind selecting youngsters like Harjot and Jasjit for the World Cup…
A. Harjot is a very promising goalkeeper and has been knocking on the senior national team's doors for quite some time now. He's done well as our junior goalkeeper. Jasjit has shown a lot of promise in the recent past and is extremely talented.

Q. On the exclusion of Yuvraj Walmiki and Affan Yousuf…
A. Both Yuvraj and Affan are very talented and are in the inner ring of selection, as far as I'm concerned. They will get their chances in the future. There are a number of major tournaments coming up after the World Cup like the Asian Games and the Commonwelath Games.

Q. On the possibility of over-utilising Sardar Singh...
A. There was a situation when Sardar was being over-utilised in the past, before I was involved with the team, and there was always the prospect of fatigue setting in. But if you see how we have used him in the last six months, I think it will be evident that we are striking the right balance and also extracting optimum performance from him.

Q. On India's World Cup prospects…
A. A top eight finish is good enough for us, but that doesn't mean we cannot finish higher. I strongly believe that if we can play to our strength, we can even finish in the top six, which will be a great show.
In our pool, we have Australia — they are always tough to beat. Belgium — they have risen wonderfully in world hockey. England — we have beaten them in the past. Then there are Spain and Malaysia who are also definitely beatable. We have the talent and the skill, now it's all about delivering on the day.

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