“We are making steps in the right direction,” says India Hockey coach Craig Fulton

“We are making steps in the right direction,” says India Hockey coach Craig Fulton

Indian Hockey coach Craig Fulton believes his side is making steps in the right direction as the team gears up for Asian Champions Trophy.

Indian Hockey team coach Craig Fulton believes that his side is making steps in the right direction. With the Asian Games and the Paris Olympic qualification in sight, the next immediate target for the team is the Asian Champions Trophy. After landing in Chennai during the wee hours on Tuesday, the confident coach spoke about his team and the challenges at a press conference ahead of the tournament that gets underway on 3rd August, Thursday.

Also Read: Hockey Asian Champions Trophy 2023: Schedule, LIVE Streaming, All you need to know

Craig Fulton took over as the coach of the Indian Hockey team in May just ahead of the European leg of the Pro League. India finished fourth in the Pro League. Much recently they won the bronze medal at the 100th Spanish Hockey Federation tournament.

Speaking about the performances so far under him, he said, “If we judge our side based on the last few performances that we have had, we are pretty consistent. We are making steps in the right direction. The group is enjoying the way we are playing and I think we can still improve.”

He also spoke on the challenge of back-to-back tournaments. “I have been here for just over two-and-half months. The challenge that we have is within the first four months we have four tournaments. We also have currently 39 players in the squad. That is not normal.”

“It has been pretty fast since I joined with the side. After two weeks of training, we went straight to the Pro League. The league helped us a lot in terms of the way we act and what I am trying to identify in the way we play. So those games were really good. Then we came back and had a good training block. I think the 4-5 games we played in Spain proved that we are on track. Happy about that at the moment,” he added.

On the challenge of playing on a new surface in Chennai

Ahead of the Hockey Asian Champions Trophy, Chennai has revamped the stadium by installing a new blue Poligras turf. Incidentally it will be the same surface that will be used in the Paris Olympics. Teams will be playing on the surface for the first time. There are talks that the surface might play a bit slower than the usual.

Speaking on it, Fulton said, “We only got in this morning, so we will train tomorrow. It’s the first time I am seeing the stadium. If it is playing a bit slower that is always a challenge for every team. We always like really fast pitches. But because it is new, you have to take that into account.”

“The nice thing is everyone is on the same boat. It’s not that we have an advantage over the other teams or anyone else have an advantage. We are all going to play on the same pitch. Probably we have less time to prepare than the other teams who have arrived early,” he added.

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“We are making steps in the right direction,” says India Hockey coach Craig Fulton

For the Asian Champions Trophy, India named a 18-member squad. Players including Lalit Upadhyay, Abhishek Mishra, Pawan, Dilpreet Singh and Simranjeet Singh, who were part of the side that travelled to Spain have all been dropped.

Craig Fulton said that all the players who couldn’t make it to the Asian Champions Trophy are still part of the group. “Everyone is till part of the group. Certain decisions on selection were made from Pro League, just prior to me joining the side. The time that I had to select the group to work with is this group now. There is still a large amount of experienced players”

He further added that the ACT is a preparatory tournament for the Asian Games. Hence it gives an opportunity to try and test players. “It is nice to have a tournament in Spain and and now in Chennai. We can use a squad of roughly 26 people to get through both the tournaments. We are using this block as the training and preparation for the Asian Games. From this, the Asian Games team will be selected.”

Indian Hockey team will begin the campaign in the tournament on 3rd August against China. The much awaited clash between India and Pakistan is scheduled on 9th August, Wednesday.

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