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Jr.WORLD CUP: "We will be in the Quarters" (4/22/2001)
--K. Arumugam
Indian girls led by 19-year old Mamta Kharab will be making their maiden entry into the Junior World Cup arena when the fourth edition commences on 14th of this month at Buenos Aires, Argentina. 55-year old former international umpire Satinderwalia, who left the coaching scene in 1989, came from retirement to train the Indian colts for the prestigious competition. Under his coaching in the last one year, Indian girls won a series against visiting Malaysia and the Asian Hockey Federation's Under-18 Cup at Hongkong.

He spoke to K. Arumugam about the team's prospects in the World Cup, preparation and the reasons why some senior players are not in the team. While saying "India lacks the capacity to win the Cup" he predicts a quarterfinal berth.

Excerpts from the Interview:

How well prepared are we to take up the Junior World Cup challenge?

I think our preparation is ok. We had 3,4 camps. Only think is that we lack in match experience. This is our drawback. We could not get a tour out, nor any team came over here. Some of the girls are going abroad for the first time. We have both senior and new players here. It's better had they played together against any foreign teams. These girls played against boys at Patiala camps, but playing against European teams is something different. Otherwise, the girls are fit, we tried all type of combinations and practiced.

Did we not try for any international outings as a part of preparation?

We tried to go Australia, they could take us. We wanted to go England, but government has not cleared the tour. There are many things, you know.

How long is the team playing together?

In the first two camps we had only under-21 girls. In the last two camps, we brought some Under-18 girls too. It's quite 6,7 weeks these girls are practicing together.

What is the point in clubbing under-18 girls for such an important tournament?

Our approach is that we should think of Asian Games next year. These are up and coming youngsters, but do not have other means of exposure except these limited tournaments. We may have left out one or two senior players because either they don't fit in our scheme of things or ageing out. They may be still under-21 eligible to play the coming world cup, but we feel they started playing early, pressed hard in the beginning and their playing age has come much less. We felt one or two senior players are aged out this way. It's better to try out the youngsters, isn't it? They are the future now.

Can I say then that our focus is not this world cup, but long term planning?

No exactly. Our focus is there for the World Cup too. We hope to get into some kind of ranking at Argentina. If I say we are going to win the Cup, it is not correct on my part because we don't have the capacity to do so. But if we get into quarterfinal that will be a big achievement; if in the semifinal, nothing like that. But to be in quarter itself is going to be tough.

We are in a strong pool in the company of Netherlands, New Zealand and USA. How do you rate our prospects? Yes, it's fairly a strong pool. These girls have beaten USA in the past. USA girls of late are not doing well as was expected from them. So, we should be able to put it across them. New Zealand is an unknown factor, a country for long not participated in competitions as only one team from Oceania regions used to get entry. This time they are in the world cup as France has pulled out. Last year our senior team defeated them in one or two test matches. But I am not sure of their junior teams' standard. I hope it will be an equal side. Netherlands of course is a strong side definitely. Our strategy is to at least draw with them, get one point. Then of course the New Zealand the Netherlands should not play for a draw in which case we will be out of the race. I hope for the best.

Since we are pitted against formidable Netherlands in the opener, will it affect the morale of the Indian team? Not necessarily. Our girls have not met them at all; so everything is wide open to them. Even I would say it's a blessing in disguise. Sometimes we might push them up. If they do not settle and if we settle faster, we can have our chance. It is better to meet the strong rival in the beginning and even if we lose, then change the strategy in the other matches based on the experience gained. Pool allows you to time think about and improve.

How do these young lot react to victory and defeat? Certainly victory gives them confidence. Yes of course some adivasi girls get upset on losing the matches. Otherwise, it's all ok.

It seems many eligible players are left out in the team? One or two girls are left out. At best they are equal to some of them we had selected. If they are the best we could have easily selected them.

Surinder Kaur is easily the best forward available in the age-group. Why she i

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