Indian skipper Manpreet Singh is confident that his side can clinch gold in the upcoming Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which will be held in April later this year.
The team, which featured four debutants, left for New Zealand from Bengaluru to be part of the Four Nations Invitational Tour to play two separate five-day series against Belgium, New Zealand and Japan, starting January 17.
“It is always good to start the season with some good matches against top teams. We have Belgium in our pool in the World Cup this year and as many matches we play against them, the better for us. With teams like New Zealand and Japan in the fray, this tour will certainly help us in our preparations for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” Manpeet was quoted as saying by a Hockey India release.
The fixtures will be played at the Blake Park in Tauranga and the Gallagher Hockey Centre in Hamilton.
Recalling the side’s experience at the Men’s Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, earlier this year, Manpreet said: “It was very important to do well against these tops teams in a big event. Earlier, somewhere at the back of our minds, we lacked the confidence that we can do well against higher ranked teams but now we don’t doubt our abilities against top teams and play with the belief that we can win against them. We were the youngest team in the tournament and how we played instils new confidence in the minds of the youngsters,” the 25-yaer-old went on to add.
Despite being ranked sixth, India used the home conditions to their benefit and finished third in the tournament behind winners Australia and runners-up Argentina.
However, Manpreet stated that the tournament had been a good learning curve for his side who could identify their problems and work on them accordingly. “After the HWL Final, we recognized some of the areas that we were lacking in. We knew we can do better in defence, man-to-man marking in the circle and we did work on that in this camp,” he said. “There is no doubt we are approaching this year with clear goals of winning in the CWG and defending our Gold Medal at the Asian Games. And it is important we convert our weaknesses into our strength before entering these major events.”
India will take on Japan in their first tie in New Zealand on January 17.