The Indian Men’s Hockey Team will take on Japan in their opening match at the Blake Park in Tauranga on Wednesday.
With four days of training at the venue and getting used to the conditions in New Zealand, drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh expressed that the team is ready to make a winning start in the Four Nations Invitational Tournament where they play Belgium and New Zealand apart from Japan in two separate Five-Day Series.
“The mood in the team is upbeat. We have clocked some good sessions on the pitch, now we are looking forward to a good start. This being the first tournament of the year, it is important to win some good matches to get the momentum going,” stated the experienced Rupinder who will be leading the team’s defence along with Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Gurinder Singh.
Against Japan, India has a good record as they had begun their successful outing in Men’s Asia Cup last year with a 5-1 win against them. While ensuring India remain unbeaten against Asian teams is one of their goals, Rupinder emphasized on consistent performance especially against teams like Olympic Silver Medallist Belgium who they play in their second match on January 18.
“We did well against them in the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017 but it’s important to come up with consistent performance against a team like Belgium in the lead up to major events this year. We must ensure our defence is accurate and it’s good to have Sreejesh back in the team. His experience is critical against higher ranked teams,” added the drag flick expert.
He further stated that matches in New Zealand will help him improve his personal game going into an all-important year.
“Personally, for me I am looking to build on my performance both in defence and drag flick from the previous event in Bhubaneswar. That was my first tournament after the injury break and matches here against teams like Belgium and New Zealand will help me assess where I need to improve further ahead of major tournaments,” Rupinder said.
On January 17, India will take on Japan in their first match at 10.15 IST.
Live streaming of matches available on: facebook.com/nzblacksticks