India men’s coach Graham Reid says their first set of FIH Pro League matches will be an important marker for their returning Tokyo medallists.
India will be travelling to South Africa for the upcoming FIH Pro League matches against South Africa and France, set to take place between Feb 8-13 in Potchefstroom.
Ahead of the matches, Reid spoke on the two oppositions and explained why it will be a challenging tour.
“South Africa matches will come after their African Cup of Nations title win. They will be very keen to continue what they started at Tokyo Olympics last year,” Reid said.
“France are an up-and-coming nation in Hockey who did well at the Junior World Cup. They also have a new Coach in Fred Soyez, who will bring in a new influx of tactics. These will be two very difficult and challenging oppositions,” he added.
India have picked an experienced squad for the four games, with senior players such as PR Sreejesh, Amit Rohidas, and Mandeep Singh returning, after being rested for the Asian Champions Trophy in Bangladesh last month.
Speaking on the squad selection, Reid said, “We want to ensure that our players and everyone understands how seriously we are taking these games. The team we have picked is pretty reflective of that. We also want the players who have not had opportunities to play since the Olympics to get back in the fray.”
India captain Manpreet Singh also spoke on the importance of the matches and said that they cannot underestimate any opposition.
“These are the first matches of this year and we want to start on a positive note. Our first focus is that we do not underestimate any team. We want to play these matches and improve ourselves and increase our confidence, especially with Asia Cup and Asian Games coming up this year, followed by the World Cup in 2023,” he said.
Two youngsters Jugraj Singh and Abhishek have also been included in the squad for the first time and if selected in the 18 will make their international debut on the tour.
“Jugraj is a versatile player as he plays both in the midfield and in defence. He is very quick when he dragflicks. Abhishek is a striker who scored quite a few goals at the National Championships. He was quite prolific in the trial games we had at the camp. It will be exciting for these two guys to make their debut,” Reid said.