The Indian men’s hockey team will emphasis on all-rounders, versatile players who can be slotted into any position, as the team builds up for the important 2018 season, its Dutch chief coach, Roelant Oltmans said on Friday.
Oltmans will use the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup international hockey tournament from April 29 to May 6 as a platform to take players out of their comfort zone by playing them in different positions. The six-nation tournament will feature hosts Malaysia, Australia, Great Britain, Japan, India and New Zealand.
The Dutch hockey expert wants to encourage players to excel while playing in new positions. Oltmans feels small changes made to the main plot will make a huge difference in crunch situations.
Testing calibre of players
“Since we are in the process of building the team for the 2018 season, it’s important to test the calibre of the core group of players and then adjust the strategy accordingly. We need more all-rounders in the team,” he told HT from Bengaluru where the national camp is currently on.
There are three important competitions in 2018 --- the Commonwealth Games in Australia (April 4-15), Asian Games in Indonesia (August 18 to September 2) and the World Cup (November) in India.
Sticking to Indian playing style
Oltmans doesn’t want to impose the European style of play and will stick with the traditional continental system. “Our style will be very much Indian, but players should have the ability to shift gears when changing position during the match,” he said.
In that way, all players would be in sync with the system by the time the next season approaches. “Performing different roles without spoiling the rhythm during matches is important. The midfielder should be able to move up to support the forward line and vice versa,” Oltmans added.
The chief coach though wanted to keep the finer points of the tactics under wraps. “Otherwise, we will not be able to surprise our rivals,” he joked.
Fitness is paramount
Gone are the days when the national team lost steam halfway through matches and fitness has become an integral part of preparation.
The team management uses the GPS gadget to evaluate fitness. Since January, the hockey team has been using it for every drill.
The Yo-Yo endurance test— to evaluate a player’s ability to withstand a series of short runs with short, active breaks --- is also being used.
Almost all the players are able to score above 20, which is considered excellent. Some players even reach 23 points. The test is done on a regular basis.
Oltmans emphasises on building a strong core. “All the players have excellent fitness. We can match the best in the business,” he added.