It was only 8.30am local time when Scotland Men 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 may have been billed as a low key warm-up fixture, but the searing heat in Delhi was a contributory factor to a 3-0 defeat in preparation for the opening fixture in the Commonwealth Games against Pakistan next Tuesday.
“The heat was just amazing, we started the game at 8.30 in the morning at 32 degrees and by the time we finished it had risen a further 6 degrees, a bit of a culture shock for the players,” said Eugene Connolly, Scotland`s manager.
The Scots went two goals behind to the Canadians in the first 20 minutes and another midway through the contest. But gradually Russell Garcia`s charges came back into the contest, Niall Stott had his penalty corner effort brilliantly saved on the line by a defender, Chris Nelson failed to convert in a one-to-one with the keeper and finally a Kenny Bain shot brought a good save from the keeper.
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.
“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 Head Coach Russell Garcia.
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 Scotland’s 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.
Meanwhile, Connolly confirmed there were no serious injury problems in the camp, Gareth Hall`s ankle injury, sustained in the recent test series against Austria, is steadily improving while Mark Ralph picked up a bruise in the game against Canada, but nothing serious.
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 were 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.”
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.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Ali McGregor (Loughborough University), Mark Ralph, Chris Nelson, Iain Scholefield, Ross Stott, William Marshall, Kenny Bain, Alan Forsyth, Gordon McIntyre, Gareth Hall (all Kelburne), Vishal Marwaha (Western Wildcats), Graham Moodie (Edinburgh University), Stephen Dick, Derek Salmond (both Inverleith), Cameron Fraser (Grange), Niall Stott (East Grinstead)