The long queues outside the majestic stadium will return on first Sunday of the tournament, when weekend festivities in the steel city will have hockey as the trending activity for locals — just like Friday, when Rourkela’s historic date with international hockey was lit up by India’s win over Spain in front of more than 20,000 fans.
The hosts got the monkey off their back with a 2-0 win to settle down in the World Cup. It wasn’t the most convincing of wins, but that’s an aspect most teams consider secondary in the first match of a tournament as big as the World Cup. And when it happens to be at home, the monkey on the back makes you a touch extra nervous.
It was a special win for the host state for more reasons than one. New stadium, World Cup and the local hero Amit Rohidas on the score sheet — they couldn’t have asked for more. That spark lit by Rohidas grew into a fire when Hardik Singh’s solo effort to score took the crowd’s breath away.
England, ranked a spot above India at No. 5 in world rankings, have been blowing the bugle of their cricket team’s ‘Bazball‘ style, which they claim to have adopted for the World Cup. Take risks, play aggressively and entertain people — that’s the ‘Bazball’ approach, named after the England Test team’s new tactics introduced by their coach Brendon McCullum, nicknamed ‘Baz’ during his playing days for New Zealand.
On Sunday, if England plan to play a similar brand of hockey against a team that likes to attack as well, the sell-out game may well turn out to be an edge-of-the seat blockbuster full of goals.
The ‘Bazball’ worked for a start, and England coasted in the traditional dust-up against Wales with a 5-0 rout, and then rested the following day, deciding not to train.
But the Indians came out in their grey training jerseys on pitch two and had fun in between some serious drills, led by coach Graham Reid carrying a straight face through the session.
The focus seemed to be squarely on penalty corners, although that’s the routine they follow before ending most training sessions. But with four out of five penalty corners against Spain going futile and skipper Harmanpreet Singh having an off day with his drag-flicks, besides missing a penalty stroke, getting variations right was the focus between Hardik Singh the injector, Manpreet Singh the stopper and the trio of Harmanpreet, Rohidas and Jarmanpreet Singh playing the dummy.
But the warmest part of the training was how well-knit and responsible the team appeared on the pitch, which coach Reid has admitted will be the key to go deeper into the tournament.
“To win a World Cup, you need everyone playing at the highest level. Yes, you can have one or two (players) having a bad game here and there, the objective is to have as many people as you can playing well. We need to bring that into the next game,” the coach had said after the win over Spain.
That’s what will be required in the game of inches against the refreshed English team that so far looks a good bet and the most serious threat for India in the pool stage.
The pool toppers go straight into the quarterfinals and this game is the one that will decide who that team will be in Pool D.
#Hockey #World #Cup #Indias #game #inches #England #Hockey #News