Pro League matches will help Indian team asses itself ahead of major tournaments: Harmanpreet Singh

POTCHEFSTROOM, 7 Feb: Vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh says the FIH Pro League matches against quality sides like France and South Africa will help the Indian men’s hockey team assess itself and prepare for other major tournaments later this year.
India are set to take on hosts South Africa and France in the opening matches of their FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 campaign, starting here from Tuesday.
The world No.3 side will play two matches apiece against both teams on the tour.
“We are really excited for our first assignment of 2022. We begin our season against two quality sides, so it’s a great thing. Our focus is to gain momentum, and make a positive start as we approach this year step-by-step.
“These FIH Hockey Pro League matches will certainly help us prepare for the forthcoming major events,” Harmanpreet was quoted as saying by Hockey India in a press release.
The Indian team has a packed 12 months ahead with several big-ticket tournaments like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games slated to be played and Harmanpreet feels the Pro League will help the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists iron out the chinks in their armour.
“We have a busy 2022 year, with a lot of important tournaments lined up in the next 12 months, so we need to ensure that we are fully prepared.
“I think the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 matches will not only help us gain the experience but will also give us the understanding about where we stand with regards to our game as well as training.
“You see, there’s always room for improvement, so apart from executing our skills and plans, our focus will also remain on improving our game, and that’s where I think Pro League matches will play a vital role.”
India will play their first match against France on Tuesday.
The last time both the teams faced each other was during the 2015 Fintro Hockey World League semifinal, with India winning the match 3-2.
Speaking ahead of the game, Harmanpreet said the match will be challenging for his team.
“We haven’t played against France in a long time. They are a really good side, and, no doubt, it will be a challenging match for us,” he said.
“Our focus will remain on playing good hockey, executing our skills, and making the best out of the opportunities. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s match. We will definitely give our 100 per cent, and hopefully, start the campaign with a win.”
The Manpreet Singh-led India will then square off against the home side South Africa on Wednesday.
The last time both teams faced each other was during the Final of FIH Men’s Series Finals in 2019, which India won 5-1. The overall head-to-head record (since 2013) belongs to the visitors, with India winning all three matches against the hosts.
When asked about facing the World No. 10 side, the 26-year-old player said the Indian team is not underestimating the lower-ranked hosts.
“South Africa are a quality team. They are currently ranked 10th in the world, and are capable of beating any team on a given day, so you just can’t underestimate them.
“It will certainly be a good challenge for us, and we are really excited to face a good team like South Africa,” he added.
After a two-day break, India will play France on February 12 followed by hosts South Africa on February 13. (PTI)