India’s previous hockey coach, Spaniard Jose Brasa, stressed on defence, which netted the team a bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Games, having missed out on a podium finish for the first time four years earlier.
The current coach, Australian Michael Nobbs, has helped India qualify for the Olympics and bring the team back to a stage they dominated after an eight-year gap. This after India failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in 2008.
With India facing the moment of reckoning, gearing up to face formidable Holland in their opening Group B clash on July 30, the Aussie appears to be tweaking things in a bid to somehow try and match their opponents.
Although India don’t carry big medal hopes here, one felt the squad members were anxious to get things right against the Dutch, especially after a poor warm-up tournament in Spain. They also face Germany, South Korea, Belgium and New Zealand in their group.
All about strategy
“Though a lot of things depend on the game, we used to keep changing our strategy as per requirement. But for this Olympics, we have a totally different plan. Till date, we have not used the new strategy against any team,” a team member said. “Ours will not be totally attacking hockey, we will start marking the opponents from their half. It will be a plan in which we will allow them to mount attacks but at the same time we will be on our toes to create opportunities for counter attacks.”
India’s lynchpin, Sardar Singh, the man who initiates attacks, may also be given a different role during penalty corners. Sardar usually takes the push. “Right now we can’t disclose in which position Sardar will be used during penalty corners. But what I can say is that apart from injecting the ball, there will be an additional role for him. For sure, there will be an element of surprise there,” said a coaching staff.
During Wednesday’s training at the River Bank Stadium, the Olympic hockey venue, Sardar was seen taking reverse flicks from top of the ‘D’. If Sardar does not take the push during penalty corners, that job will be done by Dharmavir Singh, Gurvinder Chandi or Thushar Khandkar.
“We’re trying various things for the Olympics, and hope it works out. Like other team members, the coach has also assigned me specific jobs and I’m into it,” said Sardar, not willing to reveal much.
Indian fans will hope the team, once the kings of all they surveyed, can punch above their weight.