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Home Advantage India’s Biggest Strength for 2018 Hockey World Cup: Sardar Singh

Former India men’s hockey team skipper Sardar Singh believes that India’s biggest strength going into the 2018 Hockey World Cup will be the all-important home advantage.

News18 Sports

Updated:November 23, 2018, 11:47 AM IST
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Home Advantage India’s Biggest Strength for 2018 Hockey World Cup: Sardar Singh
File image of Sardar Singh. (Getty Image)
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Former India men’s hockey team skipper Sardar Singh believes that India’s biggest strength going into the 2018 Hockey World Cup will be the all-important home advantage.

“Our biggest strength will be playing at home. I think this city has one of the best atmospheres to play hockey in, and I can say it after playing all over the world,” Sardar said in an interaction with FirstPost.

The refurbished Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar is made in a way that keeps the spectators close to the action, something which Sardar says helps the energy of the crowd reach the players.

“The stadium is built in a way that the audience is very close to the turf, so you can feel the energy reaching you. It may also put you under extreme pressure, but if you ask me, I will derive a lot of strength from it.”

However, he did add that the team should look to not let the energy of the crowd affect their gameplay in any way, advising them to keep things simple.

“A lot of players get carried away seeing such a passionate crowd and tend to show off personal skills. The focus should be more on passing the ball and playing simple, basic hockey.

“We should look to pass the ball on the stick, use aerial passes and long balls when required; like I said, just stick to the basics. If our passes are slow or bumpy, we will only make things difficult for ourselves.”

His words might seem like simple advice but given India’s tendency in recent times to lose focus – something that was on display during their Asian Games 2018 semi-final loss to Malaysia – it is something the team would do well to remember.

Sardar doesn’t mince words when speaking about that game, calling it a “collective failure” that the team must avoid in the World Cup.

“I think the game against Malaysia was a collective failure. Despite playing such a poor game, we should have won the game in full-time as we were leading 2-1, but we conceded a goal in the final stages and eventually lost. We can’t afford those mistakes in World Cup.”

“Even in the Asian Champions Trophy game against Japan, we committed errors that a stronger team would have taken full advantage of. We need to know the art of killing time if we have the lead and to control counter-attacks.”

Nevertheless, Sardar remains confident that the team will progress to the knockout rounds but added that the real test will begin from that stage of the tournament.

“I see the team making it to the knockouts, but our main test will start from quarter-finals. Our quarter-final match can change our entire hockey history.

“I think at least 14 or 15 players from the squad of 18 have to be in their top form; on a scale of 1 to 10, these 14-15 guys have to perform at the level of 7 or 8.”

“Momentum holds the key in important tournaments, so our initial matches are very important. The confidence and rhythm that the team develops initially go a long way in determining the eventual result. So we have to be on top of our form and energies.”
| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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