Bangladesh under-21 hockey team will lock horns against their Omani counterparts in the first of five-match test series today at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium as part of preparation for next year’s Bangabandhu Junior Asia Cup in Dhaka.
The series, which is a bilateral one with Bangladesh visiting Oman in December to play the same number of games, is expected to play a good role for both sides in fine-tuning the areas they need to improve while giving international exposure to new players.
Bangladesh began their preparation on July 22 with 110 players before the squad was gradually reduced to 36 members. Five of the 36 players are from the senior national team. The Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) set their sights on finishing among the top three in next Junior Asia Cup, which also served as the qualifiers of Junior World Cup.
“We never played the World Cup at any level, but we will try to qualify for the Junior World Cup by producing good results in the Junior Asia Cup. Every participating team is taking the tournament seriously and started preparation long before we did. We were supposed to travel to India, but we could not do so due to visa problem. Now we want to win the five-match series against Oman,” said head coach Mamunur Rashid.
Rashid believes if this team can play 25 to 30 warm-up matches against foreign teams before the start of the Junior Asia Cup, the team will take a good shape to achieve their ultimate target.
However, it is a new challenge for the coach and the new players and they are apparently ready to take the challenge against Oman, a side Bangladesh U-21s beat twice [7-0 and 4-0] in the Junior AHF Cup in 2014 to emerge unbeaten champions.
Captain of the first match -- Ashraful Islam -- is confident about having a good series as most of the players are from BKSP and a good understanding among them is already there after some practice matches against local teams.
Oman’s head coach Tahir Zaman, on the other hand, has good knowledge of Bangladesh hockey as he played in the Dhaka Premier League several times and also worked as an advisory coach of Bangladesh national team.
“I played here, coached the national team and know Bangladesh hockey well, but that is different. Our aim is to make a balanced combination within December. We have come here having played two matches against a Pakistan side. However, we are looking forward to having very good training and practice match and I think this series is going to benefit both sides,” said Zaman.