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Busy schedule for hockey players

By Anand Philar, IANS

Chennai : The Indian hockey probables, left without a major international engagement in their preparation for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Santiago, Chile, next year (March 1-9), will have to keep themselves busy with two more training camps, the Premier Hockey League in Chandigarh, a four-Test series against Belgium in Chennai, followed by a training-cum-exposure trip of Australia before flying out to South America.

This year, the Indian team has played just 18 international matches in three tournaments – Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (third), Champions Challenge (third) and Asia Cup (winners) – but have not faced any of the top four ranked teams, Germany, Australia, Spain and the Netherlands.

Disclosing the team’s programme, chief coach Joaquim Carvalho told IANS Friday that the present set of 40 probables would be pruned to 28 for the next camp scheduled to start on January 7.

“Prior to that, the present camp will conclude on December 5, after which the players will disperse and participate in the PHL during December-January. We will then re-assemble on January 7 to prepare for the Tests against Belgium and then head out to Australia, where we will be playing matches against State sides. On our return from Australia, the players will disperse and re-assemble for a short training camp and then fly to Chile,” said Carvalho.

En route to Santiago, the Indian team plans to stop over in Argentina for a couple of practice matches before arriving in Chile for the Olympic qualifier.

Carvalho said the players were shaping up well at the camp in Bangalore and that he was hopeful of qualifying for the Olympics.

Meanwhile, all probables would be visiting the famous basilica in Velankkani, Tamil Nadu, on December 6. “It is basically a thanksgiving visit and of course to offer prayers,” said Carvalho, who has introduced the concept of group prayers at the start and finish of every training session and match, be it practice or competitive.