India face minnows, battle fatigue in Round 2

The first casualty of the energy-sapping, four-week-long Hockey India League (HIL) is forward Gurvinder Singh Chandi who has been ruled out of the FIH World League Round Two due an ankle injury, which he picked during the Delhi Waveriders' campaign.

In an event such as the one that begins on Monday, however, Chandi is unlikely to be missed. The competition is not daunting by any stretch except Ireland (No.15) and to an extent China (No.18). The other teams in the men's competition are rank outsiders. But timing of the injury does indicate that the stiffest resistance to the Indians might come from their own exhausted bodies.

Seventeen out of the 18-member squad played in the HIL that was conducted at five venues across the country and required the players to play, on an average, one match every second day.

Only one member of the team, Gurjinder Singh, didn't participate in the HIL as he was part of the rebel World Series of Hockey last year. A supremely gifted drag-flicker, Gurjinder is a more than capable defender too, but his problem is that he is at the opposite end of the spectrum: he has hardly played any hockey in the last 12 months, except the nationals in Bangalore five months ago. And it's showing on his 19-year-old body in the form of a mild paunch.

Coach Michael Nobbs doesn't expect a great tournament for him. "He's flicking some dynamites and bombs, but he is not the fittest members out there. You can't blame him; he's hardly played any hockey of late. I don't expect him to play much in the tournament," Nobbs said, on the eve of India's opener against Fiji.

Two teams from this pool that also includes Oman and Bangladesh will qualify for the World League Round Three to be played in Malaysia in June-July. Six teams from that two-legged Round Three will qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

... contd.

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