It was only 9am when Scotland’s men’s hockey team stepped onto the pitch at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium to face Canada, but the temperature was already a blistering 34 degrees.
The match was played over three 20-minute periods with Canada winning three goals to nil, but Scotland coach Russell Garcia was happy with the teams’ performance.
“It was a good preparation game for us, a good first test. We are training tomorrow then another game on Friday, against New Zealand”, said Garcia.
Scotland will compete in Pool A of the competition and face tough opposition in the form of Australia, Pakistan, India and Malaysia. New Zealand and Canada meet each other in Pool B along with England, South Africa and Trinidad &Tobago.
Australia are currently ranked number one in the world but the Scottish players are excited about the challenge. Mark Ralph is one of the senior team members who was part of the team who competed in Melbourne in 2006 and also the side that picked up an unexpected bronze medal at the 2009 World Cup Qualifiers.
He said, “It will be a joy to play against Australia and really test ourselves. They are the best side in the world at the moment so it will be a great experience. We are ranked bottom of the group so our focus is to compete in every game and have a good team performance. We’ll be aiming to raise the bar every time and we are treating today’s game as the first of all our matches ahead.”
Large hawks swooped over the pitch during each interval but kept well away during play as the ball zipped across the pitch and both sides tried to settle into the pitch and conditions. Scotland improved with each phase and held Canada to a scoreless final period.
Garcia continued, “By the time our first pool match begins, I imagine we’ll be more acclimatised and happy with what we’re trying to do. At this stage, everyone needs pitch time and making sure they’re fresh throughout. We’ve been preparing this for almost a year so it’s now just about fine tuning some things each day.”
The Asian opponents in Pool A have the advantage of playing regularly in the heat so to ensure Scotland are top form, the team’s medical staff are working hard to keep them cool. Iced towels are given out during substitution breaks, hand cooling boxes are used to help keep body temperature low and after the final whistle, ice vests are worn by the goal keeper and any other players who are at highest risk of overheating.
Another factor for the players to focus on is hygiene to limit the risk of infection. When players leave the field they use the provided hand sanitising gel, followed by the removal of their mouth guard into an individual dish with sterilised liquid instead of their regular habit of storing it inside their hockey sock. Rehydration is vital for optimum performance to be maintained across all four pool matches which begin on the fifth against Pakistan and end on the ninth against the hosts India.
In the afternoon, men’s team captain chris Nelson and GB internationalist, Graham Moodie, took time out to show off their skills at Delhi’s iconic India Gate.
The women’s team had their second training session today and are preparing for their first warm-up match against Malaysia on Friday evening at the main stadium.