New Delhi: Out of action for the past three months, Indian hockey colts will finally get to play at competitive level in the upcoming Sultan of Johor Cup, and chief coach Gregg Clark said it will give him an accurate idea about his wards ahead of the Junior World Cup.
The Junior World Cup is to be held here in December.
The Indian junior men`s hockey team last played competitive matches on their tour of Europe in early June but after that they have been training only in camps under the watchful eyes of Clark and coach Baljit Singh Saini.
But Clark said the six-nation tournament in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, featuring top teams like Korea, Pakistan, England and Argentina besides India, will provide an "indication" of his wards` progress ahead of the all-important Junior World Cup to be held here from December 6-15.
"It`s nice to be finally going for a tournament. We have been in training camp for a couple of months now. I am happy with the way things have gone in the camp. But obviously at this point of time we would like to have more competitive matches as part of our preparation (for Junior World Cup). It will give us an accurate indication of where we are from the performance level," he told reporters at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium here.
"We haven`t played since the beginning of June after the tour of Europe. So, every match is extremely important for us now because you can play as much as you like in the training ground, but what matters is playing against international oppositions," said the South African.
In the Sultan of Johor Cup to be held from September 22 to 29, India will get the services of four players -- captain Manpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh and Mandeep Singh -- who are members of the senior side.
The likes of Malak Singh, S K Uthappa, Gurmail Singh and Ramandeep Singh have been kept as reserves.
Clark said the inclusion of senior team members augurs well for his side ahead of the World Cup.
"It does. I guess we still got two months to integrate them into our team. The next couple of weeks will be a transition for all of us because we haven`t had these guys. They will be important players for us in the World Cup," he said.
"But having them understand what we have done in the last couple of months is going to be a little bit difficult. But its great to have these talents at our disposal who have been during regular duty in senior team," said Clark, who coached the South African senior men`s team for seven years including the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Clark said he was satisfied with the work he has done so far with the junior side after taking charge in April this year.
"The players have progressed really well. For me there was always lot of talent at disposal to begin with. It`s just about polishing some of the rough edges. I think we really have a talented group of players here who will play a lot of hockey for India in the future," he said.
"It was about some technical improvements that I wanted to make which are more relevant to current international hockey," said the South African, who was also the coach inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) winners Ranchi Rhinos.
Meanwhile, India junior men`s team captain Manpreet Singh said he is ready to get out of the shadow of seniors like Sardar Singh.
"As a senior there is responsibility. There is plenty of responsibility on me because this is only my second tour with the junior side. The coach is different so there is lot to learn. But I hope I can fulfil my duties," he said.
"As a captain I will like to take all the players along with me. I will put in all efforts to make the team a cohesive unit. I will like to motivate all the players when their chips are down.
"I have learnt a lot from Sardar on how to handle the team on and off the field," said the midfielder.
Manpreet also felt that the upcoming tournament will give him and other senior team members an opportunity to mix up with the junior players before the World Cup.