May 23, 2012

Sultan Azlan Shah: India vs New Zealand preview

India vs New Zealand in Sultan Azlan Shah
Blue pitch, yellow turf ball and black sticks will pose as the first challenge for the men in blue when India faces world number 7 New Zealand in the opening encounter of Sultan Azlan shah tournament.

After a dismal performance in the Olympics hockey test event, India will try to get their Olympic preparation back on track with a win against New Zealand. The black sticks in the other hand have prepared well for the tournament, having arrived on 17th May and practicing well on the blue turf before the tournament started. New Zealand coach Shane McLeod will also be confident after beating hosts Malaysia 4-2 and Great Britain 2-0.

India will be boosted by the return of striker Yuvraj Walmiki who was sidelined in the Olympics qualifiers with hamstring injury. Yuvraj recently underwent a fitness test and was declared fit to play but match fitness will still be a major concern for Coach Nobbs. Also, ruling out of Gurwinder Chandi due to hamstring injury will also cause a big concern for the Indian team.

Will Gurbaj Singh's return help Indian team?
Team news for New Zealand is also not a great one with one of the players ruled out of the tournament due to appendicitis operation, but despite injury the team is sure to reach the finals of the tournament with quite ease.

For Indian team all the onus will be on Sardara Singh to marshal the midfield along with Gurbaj Singh who will return to the team after suffering knee injury. Sardara and Gurbaj will have to bring up their A game if the Indian team to create any hope of beating New Zealand. The attack of Indian team will be led by SV Sunil, and will be supported by experienced duo of Shivendra Singh and Tushar Khandekar. Indian team will again relying on creating penalty corners and hoping that Sandeep and VR Raghunath convert those chances into goals. The return of Rupinder Pal Singh who was India's top scorer in last year's edition will also boost the morale of the team. Leaky defense will still be a worry for the Indian team with Indian team only going with Sandeep, Raghunath and Rupinder who are penalty corner experts turned defenders and not the solutions to India's defensive problems.

New Zealand's team for the tournament is quite experienced one with their least capped player playing nearly 50 games Striker Simon Child and Phil Burriws will lead the black sticks attack and will be well supported by Nick Wilson and Hugo Inglis. New Zealand defense will be lead by captain Dean Couzins and has played nearly 250 games for the tournament.

The black sticks will start the game and favorites after winning the two practice games and getting accustomed to the climate with one week of practice.

Indian team who found the London pitch bouncy will have to start the game on a cautious note and hope that New Zealand team makes a mistake. The game will start at 3:35 IST but as usual there is no live telecast of the tournament on TV

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