Captain Vivek Sagar Prasad feels handling pressure will be the key
Chief coach Graham Reid and captain Vivek Sagar Prasad on Friday underscored the ‘team first’ approach in defending champion India’s preparation for the Junior World Cup, starting at Bhubaneswar from November 24.
Reid, who guided the Indian elite men’s team to its first Olympics medal in 41 years at Tokyo, stuck to his tried and tested values as he switched to coach the junior side. “Togetherness and team first are very important. In the last month I am (more like) a relationship coach as relationships with the players are important,” said Reid at a virtual press conference.
Reid said coach B.J. Kariappa, who spent time with the senior team during the COVID-19 time, had been guiding the juniors well. “A lot of exercises, drills and terminology we used with the senior team has been dribbled down to the junior team.”
The Australian said getting to know the junior players and communicating with them (as some of them did not know English well) were the two primary challenges for him.
Drawing comparisons with the senior team’s Tokyo campaign without much match practice, Reid said it was difficult to know “where we are” and acknowledged the difficulty of not getting videos of the other junior sides.
The Indian juniors, who moved to Bhubaneswar a week back after having a camp of five to six months in Bangalore, played some matches with the seniors on either side of the Olympics. “The senior camp is moving here (Bhubaneswar) in a week and we will have some more practice matches,” Reid said.
Vivek, who led the junior side to podium finishes in the Sultan of Johor Cup and the Youth Olympics in 2017 and 2018 respectively, looked forward to maintaining the team bonding. “Pressure will be there. We will go match by match and I will try to keep the team together,” said Vivek, who missed the 2016 Junior World Cup due to an injury.
Vice-captain and drag-flicker Sanjay said the juniors learnt a few things, including structure and penalty corner defending, during their practice matches with the seniors.
“We felt proud (when the senior team won an Olympics medal). We want to do well in the World Cup and feel proud again,” said Sanjay.
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