India To Send Second-String Hockey Teams For Birmingham Commonwealth Games

India would be sending its second-string hockey teams for both the men’s and women’s competitions at this year’s Commonwealth Games due to the short turnaround time between the Birmingham event and the Hangzhou Asian Games, which is a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The development was confirmed by a top Hockey India official on Saturday after President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the International Hockey Federation (FIH), Narinder Batra, made the assertion in a widely circulated message.

“We have three teams — India senior, India A and Junior team — and we would be sending our ‘A’ teams for the Commonwealth Games this year because we don’t want our main players to hit the peak just before the Asian Games, which is more important,” the Hockey India official told PTI.

“We will send those reserve players who will not be a part of the Asian Games squad because there is only a 32-day gap in between the two Games and we don’t want our hockey teams to peak at the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

“We want our main players to be fully fit for the Asian Games because it is an Olympic qualifier,” he added.

The Birmingham CWG is scheduled from July 28 to August 8, while the Asian Games will be held from September 10 to 25 this year.

Last year, Hockey India caused a flutter when it withdrew its teams from the CWG, citing COVID-19 related concerns and the short gap between the Birmingham Games and Hangzhou Asiad, a decision which was later reversed after the intervention of Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.

But taking into consideration the importance of the Asian Games, India has decided against sending its main teams for the Birmingham CWG. HI is confident that the country would do well irrespective of the line-up given that most of the core group has been able to come good as and when required.

“We have enough bench strength, so sending a strong team is not an issue. But we will not risk our main team players because Asian Games is of greater significance for us. In fact, the 2022 CWG will give our ‘A’ team players valuable international match exposure,” the official said.

He, however, hinted that first-choice goalkeepers of both the senior sides could be sent for the Birmingham Games as well to gain much-needed game time ahead of the Asian Games.

“But yes, there is a possibility that we could send our main team goalkeepers for the CWG because there they can get some experience and game time.” The Indian men’s hockey team clinched a historic bronze at the Tokyo Games earlier this year — its first Olympic hockey medal since last of the eight gold medals in Moscow in 1980.

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The women’s team, on the other hand, narrowly missed out a first Olympic medal by losing 3-4 to Great Britain in the bronze play-off.

In the CWG, India’s best finish till date is two silver medals in the 2010 and 2014 editions with Australia claiming all the six golds since the sport’s inclusion in the multi-sport event in 1998.

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