If Indian hockey fans were wondering that a change in coaching personnel could have the Indian men’s team floundering with a different set of tactics or coaching methodology, High Performance Director and current coach Roelant Oltmans moved swiftly to address the ‘non-issue‘.
“During our practice at Shilaroo, we have been working on our attack as well as defence and in the process inculcating in us the attitude to win.
Defending we do with 11 players and attacking we do with 11 players. Each and every one has a role and they are aware of it.
When we are attacking and we are in the final quarter of the pitch, then our defenders should not stay close to our D. Rather they have to push up and be in a position so that if we lose possession then we have to immediately regain possession.
If our defenders are far back then that leaves a gap in the midfield and in case opponents get possession then that immediately puts pressure on the goalkeeper. So we have to keep our structure in place with our roles specified and this helps get the best out of the team.
I always divide the game in two parts — possession and non possession — and this depends on the skills as well as our cohesion on the field.
With possession we have to ensure that it results in creating scoring opportunities and even capitalising on them. In non possession we have to work on how well to defend, how do we push the attack back and look at getting the possession back.”
India skipper Sardar Singh said:
“During our training, we enhanced our fitness levels. The team is confident and looking forward to the tour. We have around 35 international games before Rio Olympics and we want to make the most of them.
Our first match is against France and they have been playing brilliant hockey in the recent years. They will be a challenge for us. We are confident of doing well against France and Spain.”
Oltmans was the man who both approved and dismissed his compatriot Van Ass. The European approach selected was probably first run by him as High Performance Director and then implemented by his countryman.
Team India embark on an European tour where they will play France and Spain in five games.
Continuity in tactics introduced by Oltmans’ predecessor Paul Van Ass will alleviate turbulence and turmoil in the side following the sudden exit and dismissal of Van Ass.
Sardar’s disclosure that fitness issues are being addressed is welcome news. The Total Hockey concept is workable only if the men in blue are able to keep pace with their stronger rivals throughout the game. They should not fade in the final quarter.
Tour results will be closely followed by hockey fans and we can only hope that Indian hockey is moving in the right direction.
Oltmans, however, struck a somber note about India’s chance at the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
“If you ask me can we win [gold] at the Olympics Games, [I would say] it’s a challenge.
The last Olympic Games [London 2012], India finished 12th. The last World Cup , India finished 9th. Numbers, facts, nothing more, nothing less. Do you believe in two years’ time you can win the gold medal? Answer yourself.
But we will strive for it, that’s 100 percent.
We know that we have been close to quite a number of teams and already defeated a number of top teams as well. Champions trophy, we beat Holland. Belgium, we beat them as well. Australia, we beat them quite a number of times in the last year, last time at the Azlan Shah Cup.
Is it possible [to win gold at the Olympics]? Yes, it’s possible. Is it consistently possible? Not yet. But we have one more year to work on that, and I will tell you one thing, we will.”