Down Under, second coming for Nobbs & Co.
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Returning to Champions Trophy hockey tournament after six years, India are confronted with a test of character as they take on England in the lung-opener on Saturday, aiming to wipe off the bitter memories of their London Olympic debacle.
India's return to the Champions Trophy for the first time since 2005 comes through a wildcard invitation, and the team is well aware that their performance at the State Hockey Centre will be under scrutiny. The Champions Trophy marks the first international assignment for the Indians after the London Olympics, apart from the nine-a-side International Super Series in Perth on way to Melbourne.
The Indian team's lone victory in Perth was a 5-2 triumph against Pakistan in the league encounter. But Pakistan turned the tables to prevail by an identical score-line in the bronze medal playoff that left India bottom-placed in the four-nation tournament.
The wildcard status for India comes a year after the team lost a chance to play in the Champions Trophy as hosts when the International Hockey Federation (FIH) moved the event out of New Delhi to Auckland citing governance issues in Indian hockey.
India's coach Michael Nobbs and captain Sardar Singh are hopeful of a decent show despite the absence of several senior players who lost their berths in the national squad. "We obviously had some problems with our game structure in London and that's something no one would like to remember, but we have to look ahead now," said Nobbs.
Sardar, the team's star player, is back in the captain's role and should be an inspiration for the youngsters. Penalty corner ace Sandeep Singh and ex-captain Shivendra Singh were dropped at the team selection after the preparatory camp. Others losing out on national selection were goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, who led the team in the Olympics, and the seasoned trio of Ignace Tirkey, Tushar Khandekar and Gurbaj Singh.
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