India eyeing consistency in hockey World Cup
New Delhi: Motivated by cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar`s morale-boosting pep talk, a well-prepared and fully focussed Indian men`s hockey team will strive for consistency in the upcoming FIH World Cup as it leaves for The Hague, Netherlands - the venue for the mega-event on Wednesday.
The 18-member India team will depart for The Hague from here to participate in the World Cup to be held at The Kyocera Stadium from May 31 to June 15.
A day prior to their departure the Indian players were in for a pleasant shock when Tendulkar paid a surprise visit at the team hotel in the Capital and spent close to two hours with the players during which he shared his valuable experiences.
Tendulkar visited the team on the request of captain Sardar Singh and motivated the players with his inspirational talks.
"Sachin is a fantastic personality. Only me and Sardar knew about his visit. It was a welcome surprise for the players. Sachin shared his experiences with the players and it act as a big morale-booster for the team in the World Cup," Indian hockey`s High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans said before the team`s departure.
Oltmans is happy with the preparation of the team and said India can spring up surprises in the tournament if they can play consistent hockey.
"Our preparation was upto the mark. The team is really gelling well. We made a lot of progress for sure but it is important for us to find out how close we are to the top teams," he said.
"The main question is how consistent we can be? If we can be consistent throughout the tournament we can make a hard day for every team.
"We are presently 8th in the world so definitely we will like to maintain that position if not better it. But if we can be consistent enough I think there will be surprises for sure," the legendary Dutch player said.
Insisting that Indian players know "they won`t get too many opportunities to play in a World Cup", Oltmans refused to speculate the team`s final outcome in the quadrennial event.
"It is very difficult to predict where we will finish. But we will take a game-by-game approach. The only thing in our hand is to perform to our level," he said.
Captain Sardar Singh too is optimistic about India`s good showing in the World Cup.
"There is no lack in our fitness. The players are skillful and we are fully prepared for the job. I am sure the results will be positive," he said.
"My target is 5 or 6th position and anything higher than that will be a bonus. But our present focus is the first match against Belgium."
India are placed in tough Group A along side world champions Australia, England, Belgium, Spain and Malaysia while the Group B consists of hosts Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina and South Africa.
India will open its campaign against Belgium on the opening day of the tournament.
Prior to the start of the tournament, India will play two practice matches against Argentina and South Africa.