New Delhi: Indian hockey is going through a transitional phase and skipper Sreejesh P.R. says both the senior and junior players “will have to push equally hard” to earn their spots as Roelant Oltmans’ men look ahead to a new season.
The senior men’s team are preparing for the Azlan Shah tournament in April, but the road ahead is set for the World Cup at home next year, besides the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
The induction of 11 youngsters in the 33-strong probables group has made it for an interesting scenario in the national camp, and Sreejesh says it is heartening to see healthy competition.
“It’s a fresh beginning and with so many youngsters coming into the core probables, the juniors as well as seniors will really have to push for a spot in the national team,” he said in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
“The juniors will need to get better in skills and execution, adapt in the camp and prove that they are worthy of that position and are ready to replace a senior player.
“For a senior player, he needs to match the fitness and speed the juniors bring to the table.
“While we know that juniors will be the future as we prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they shouldn’t take it for granted that they will make it to the squad. They need to earn it,” the 29-year-old goalkeeper said.
India’s colts, who won the Junior World Cup last year, had a fabulous outing in 2016 and also showcased their potential in the 2017 Hockey India League.
But Sreejesh feels that the standard of the game will be entirely different at the top level.
“These six weeks (at the national camp) will be good exposure for them in terms of understanding the system we follow, learn how we strategise, plan and execute. Though they have seen us train closely, I believe being in the system is very different from just watching us train,” said Sreejesh.
Selection trials will be held in the following weeks to pick the final squad for the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, beginning April 29.