The India 'A' Men and Women Hockey teams today left for the Australian Hockey League, beginning 28 September in Perth, Australia.
Ahead of the prestigious League that will see a total of 10 teams including defending champions Victoria fight for top honours, the men's team was based at Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru while the India 'A' team for women trained at the SAI Centre in Bhopal as part of their preparations for the Australian challenge.
The India 'A' men's team led by goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya consists of 2016 Junior World Cup heroes Harjeet Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Armaan Qureshi, Krishan Pathak, Gurinder Singh, Santa Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Vikramjit Singh among compatriots like Talwinder Singh, Affan Yousuf and Amit Rohidas who have had strong outings for the Indian men's team in recent tournaments.
"I think we have a very good mix of players with many of us who have played together for more than four years. There is a great understanding among the players and we have undergone good preparations for the challenge in Australia. The teams we will be playing are quite strong with players of national repute but we are geared up for a good show," expressed Dahiya who further added that quality performance in this tournament can help grab the attention of national selectors ahead of the all-important Odisha Men's Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017 in December.
"With the development squad, the player pool is much larger and there is scope for every player to showcase their abilities and we are aware that good performance in AHL will help players get a call-up for the men's squad. The competition within our team is healthy and strong that each one will undoubtedly give more than their 100 per cent," stated a confident Dahiya ahead of the team's departure on Saturday.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Preeti Dubey, skipper for the India 'A' women's team, who had a good outing for the senior women's team at the Hockey World League Semi Final recently said that the AHL will be a good stepping stone for young and upcoming women players.
"Apart from four or five of us in this team, not many girls have had strong international exposure and considering this is the first time that a women's team from India is being sent for the AHL, there is a lot of excitement among the players," Dubey said.
For the women, the League will be a platform to test their abilities against strong set of opponents in tough Australian conditions.
"The Australians play fast and attacking hockey. While our aim is to perform well in all departments, the AHL will be a very good platform for most of us to understand the demands of fast-paced international hockey. Moving forward, this experience will definitely help us in other international tournaments and we are looking forward to this challenge," Dubey added.
The India 'A' men's team will begin their campaign against Western Australia on 29 September while the women will take on Victoria in their first match on the same day.