Sardara, Ignace put injury worries behind
With India's key midfielders Sardara Singh and Ignace Tirkey back in peak fitness and taking the full workload at training session, coach Michael Nobbs exuded confidence ahead of the team's opening match against the Netherlands in the London Olympics.
Both the players were forced to sit out of some games during the recent tour of Europe after Sardara got smacked on his shin from close range during the first match of India's preparatory tour of Spain, while Ignace sprained his ankle when he rolled over the ball.
Nobbs said Sardara and Ignace, who play a vital role in the Indian game plan, were fully fit and have now went through several practice sessions.
"The entire team is fit now...don't get worried on this count. Come July 30 and we hope to put up a good show in our first outing against the Netherlands," Nobbs said here on Wednesday.
The duo has resumed practice since last weekend when the Indian team got an opportunity to train on the hockey pitch in the Olympic arena. Sardara, the central midfielder, plays the critical role of a game-maker as well as falling back to bolster the defence, while the seasoned Ignace has always taken enormous amount of workload in the past year.
Ignace is one of the only two players in the team who has the experience of playing in the Olympic Games. He and ace penalty corner striker Sandeep Singh were a part of the Indian squad that went to the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Other players, who made their international debut after 2004 have not got the Olympic Games exposure, as the eight-time gold medallists India failed to qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Failing to feature in the Beijing Olympics was a bad blow for Indian hockey but Nobbs said that the team was looking to rebuild and the revival plan is now in place.
"I am not making any predictions, but we are hoping to put up a good show," said Nobbs, adding that world champions Australia and reigning Olympic champions Germany will be the strongest teams in the competition.
But he added that there is just a marginal difference in the strength of the remaining sides.
"We have prepared well and now is the time for the boys to perform. They are a strongly bonded team and fully aware of the responsibility they carry," said Nobbs.
India won their qualifier event in New Delhi to return to the Olympic arena, where they have been drawn with Olympic title holders Germany, former champions the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and Belgium in Group B.
India have not advanced to the Olympic Games semi-finals since winning the last of their eight gold medals in the boycott-hit Moscow Games.
Press Trust of India