Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Hosts India will meet New Zealand in the crossover round of the FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. Coach Graham Reid has admitted that the game against the Kiwis will be tough for the Indian team.

Going by India’s performance in their last three pool matches, penalty corner conversion remains a huge concern for the hosts. In the last three matches, India created as many as 20 penalty corner chances. However, they could manage to convert only three. The main reason for the poor conversion rate is ace drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh’s poor form.

Teams like Spain, England and Wales had worked a lot on India’s penalty corner strategy before their group stage games. The hosts were excessively dependent on Harmanpreet. The first rushers of the opponents were determined to block Harnmanpreet. They were on a mission not to give any space to the ace drag-flicker.

India also lacked variation inside the D-area. Other Key players like Amit Rohidas, Varun Kumar and Jarmanpreet Singh have also lacked creativity and improvisation inside the D-area.

Harmanpreet’s recent poor form has cost India heavily. He scored as many as 28 goals from penalty corners in 2022. However, his sudden dip in form has hit India hard.

India bank heavily on penalty corner conversions to put pressure on their opponents. With the main strikers in poor form, the penalty corner specialists should step up their game from the crossover round to give India any realistic chance of reaching the next round.