Australia will pose biggest challenge for India in hockey World Cup: Ajit Pal

New Delhi, Dec 15 (PTI) Hockey great Ajit Pal Singh believes Australia will likely pose the biggest threat to India’s quest for World Cup glory at home, saying the hosts will have to play to their full potential to overcome the challenge of the Kookaburras.

Australia had thumped India 7-0 in the gold-medal match at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Singh said the hosts can counter the Kookaburras’ challenge by “playing together as a unit”.

The World Cup will be played in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela from January 13 to 29 with 16 teams vying for the trophy. India are clubbed in Pool D with Wales, Spain, England.

“The Indian men’s team should consider every single game as extremely important. Yes, Australia is a difficult team, but they must play to their full potential. Winning or losing is a part of the game, but you do your best at all times,” said Ajit Pal, the captain of the gold-winning team in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

“And India can do it if they play well and together as a unit. And I wish they can do it because many years have passed since we have touched the World Cup trophy.” Ajit Pal, also a member of three medal-winning World Cup squads, also advised the Harmanpreet Singh-led side to do their basics right and be confident in defence.

“Don’t be overburdened. Don’t be pressurised and play simple hockey. We have to be tight in the defence also. I am quite sure the players and coaches know these things and are planning accordingly. Don’t lose your confidence. You can do it and I’m sure the team will do well,” added Ajit Pal, who won bronze medals in the 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

Remembering the last time India lifted the World Cup in 1975, Ajit Pal said the team was like a family, on and off the pitch.

“Those were some of the good old days, I still remember, and the victory was really fantastic. All the team members really gave their best in the 1975 World Cup. Those memories from 47 years ago are still very much there in my mind and everybody else’s as well.

“We had a great team, and we lived like a family. We would discuss our shortcomings and our opponents in detail, and we were always all together, on and off the field. All the hockey lovers in the country were very happy that once again we became world champions.”

Source: PTI News


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