India start favourites against Ireland at World League Round 3
India's progress during the past few months after the London Olympics debacle will be put to severe test at the FIH World League Round 3 (semi-final) that gets underway today when they begin their campaign against Ireland, the lowest ranked team in Pool B.
However, after the first tie, Michael Nobbs & Co will have to sweat it out if they are to get the better of the Netherlands and New Zealand. Teams finishing in the top three will qualify directly for next year’s World Cup and given the composition of the competition, the once formidable Indians will have to play way above their potential to make an impact.
The national selectors have opted to infuse some experience into the otherwise young squad by recalling drag-flicker Sandeep Singh and striker Shivendra Singh. And the duo will play a crucial role if India are to progress in the tournament which runs between June 13-23.
Midfielder Sardar Singh is leading the squad, while drag-flicker VR Raghunath has been named his deputy. However, India will miss the services of midfielder Danish Mujtaba and Gurvinder Singh Chandi, both of whom have been ruled out of the tournament due to injuries. While Gurvinder continues to be on the sidelines because of a prolonged ankle injury, Danish is suffering from a ligament tear.
“The competition is pretty tough. All the teams will want to qualify but we are absolutely keen and we will give it our best shot,” Indian skipper Sardar Singh had said prior to the team’s departure last week. “Our chances are there but we need to play tough hockey. We need to concentrate, we shouldn’t give away the ball easily,” he added. Meanwhile, Pool A consists of Australia, Spain, Belgium and Germany.