New Delhi: B.J. Kariappa, coach of Indian junior men's hockey team, believes 2020 will be an important year for the team as they will be vying to qualify for the 2021 FIH Junior World Cup.
"Next year will definitely be important for the junior men's team. The core group of this team is strong and they have played together for nearly two years so each of them understand their strengths and weak points. Their overall fitness has also improved a lot and I am sure this team will continue to build on their performance and do well in the Junior Asia Cup which will be a priority for 2020," Kariappa was quoted as saying by Hockey India website.
He further said that with India playing the FIH Pro League in 2020, he expects some of the junior players to make the cut for the senior core group. "Every year we see some of the junior players graduate to the senior core group. In 2019, we saw players like Sanjay (defender) show consistent performance. Mandeep Mor was effective with his penalty corners too while it was good to see Dilpreet Singh (forward) return to action and played a composed game," Kariappa said.
2019 saw the team remain consistent in their overall performance while they improved their overall fitness and also saw the return of Dilpreet Singh in the forward-line after he last played in the 2018 World Cup.
Although the team began the season with a disappointing outing at the 8-Nations Tournament in Spain, the team produced strong results at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia where they remained unbeaten against Malaysia (4-2), New Zealand (8-2), Australia (5-1), and drew against Great Britain (3-3) but lost to Japan (3-4). In the final, however, they but put a strong fight against nemesis Great Britain but lost narrowly (1-2) to bag a silver medal.
Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives that came out of the tournament. "We were consistent through the tournament and we saw good improvement in the overall PC conversion rate," Kariappa said.