India's national hockey teams are as much a repository of cultural diversity as they are for a dominant skill -- dribbling.
But the next time you meet the country's top hockey players, chances are that they could all be speaking in one language -- English.
And don't be
surprised if you find members of the national squad busy solving simple mathematical problems off the pitch.
Thrust on rudimentary education is high on the priority list of the recommendations renowned Dutch hockey expert Roelant Oltmans will be making to the national federation for boosting the players' decision-making abilities in the heat of competition.
The Dutch legend, appointed the high performance director by Hockey India to oversee the senior and junior national teams insists Indian players will have to set their sights beyond honing their skills if they are to succeed in their bid to regain their lost glory.
"Top players are not able to communicate properly due to the language barrier. It has an adverse effect on the performance of the team," Oltmans told HT.
Modern hockey is not just confined to excellent ball skills, which several top Indian players have in plenty, but a comprehensive development is required to perform consistently at the highest level.
"There is no doubt Indians are excellent in basic ball skills, but due to a lack of proper measures to exercise the brain in the camps, the players are not able to make quick decisions during matches," said Oltmans on his observations in the last few weeks.
Skills may help win a few matches, but that alone won't take the team far in the long run, he said.
Oltmans is appalled at a lack of programme to nurture talent in India. "At the moment India has two teams --- U-21 and seniors. But all leading nations have teams starting from U-16. There is a huge gap," he said.
This is evident from the absence of quality replacements for top players. "If five or six players quit the team, it would take a long time to fill the gap," he added.
He wants more academies to be opened across the country and a proper structure to establish to develop the U-16 team.
"If all the academies have proper curriculum and structured programme, there would be a uniform pattern of training. Along with hockey, education would also be a key part of the development."
Oltmans also hinted at a 'change of staff' for the national teams. The current level of fitness and skills can take India teams only to a certain level, but to compete against the world's best like Australia, Germany and Netherlands, a proper system will have to be followed.
"People who would not agree with the new proposal might have to quit," he said.
Roelant is compiling his observations and would submit a detailed report to the federation.
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