Former champions India will parade a lethal forward line to showcase their talent against host Malaysia in the 10th edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup that resumes after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium today.
Playing at a familiar venue in the most prestigious international invitational Under-21 hockey tournament in the world, the Indians will be led upfront by team captain Uttam Singh, his deputy Dhami Boby Singh, Sudeep Chirmako and Hundal Araijet Singh. All four players stamped their mark as goal poachers in the 2021 Junior World Cup (JWC), alongside Angad Bir Singh.
Two other JWC debutants – Vishnukant Singh and Shardanand Tiwari are midfielders. Theoretically, the equation could spell trouble for the Malaysian Colts unless coach Amin Rahim’s boys put up a gallant performance in all quarters.
Traditionally, India, Great Britain and Australia have dominated the SOJC since its inaugural tournament in 2011.
India’s newly appointed men’s national junior team coach C.R. Kumar, said: “We have a good history of the SOJC and have been coming here many times since 2011. We won two times and took home silver medals four times.”
“The team right now, to me, is good. There is maturity in the way players perform. There are seven boys who played in the last Junior World Cup in 2021 and four in the 2019 SOJC. Maturity wise it is good. But off course for the last 2 years we haven’t played any single international game. It was a big disappointment and setback for us and which every team faced also,” added Kumar.
The former head coach of the Indian senior women’s hockey coach to the Olympics and World Cup, said like all other teams, the players were also unfortunate not being able to travel out of India and participate in tournaments.
“Unfortunately for us getting out of the country was really a big problem due to Covid. Whatever it maybe we did prepare for SOJC and every single game is very important.
“At the same time, we also know all the opponents are very strong, including Malaysia, who will want to win. Let’s see how it goes,” he said.
Kumar, who has been coaching the team since his appointment in March this year, added: “We don’t underestimate any one as we also need to perform well and I can assume Malaysia is strong and on a given day anything can happen.”
“We have 33 players in our training camp and we chose the best 18 for the SOJC. It’s a long way to go for the 2023 Junior World Cup and we don’t know who will travel to Kuala Lumpur for the World Cup.”