The Indian men’s hockey team is on the cusp of matching the game’s elite, but will have to fully buy into changing the culture within and pull together as a team, its Dutch chief coach, Roelant Oltmans said on Thursday.
German stalwart Moritz Fuerste, who led Kaling Lancers to the Hockey India League (HIL) title recently, has tipped India to be among the world’s top three in the next decade.
“I see it as a compliment that top sides in the world are seeing what India is doing,” Oltmans said at the national camp currently on at the Sports Authority of India’s southern centre in Bangalore.
“Maybe three-four years ago they weren’t even looking at India as a serious competitor. India is getting close to the top sides and now it’s up to us to show we can do it.”
WORKING FOR TEAM’S CAUSE
However, Oltmans says a change in the culture within the team is vital if the eight-time Olympic champions are to regain their past glory.
“From what I’ve seen, there is a top down approach that exists in the Indian way of functioning – be it in business, family or work.
“To do well in a team sport, every player needs to take responsibility and work towards executing his personal best into the team but not by playing as an individual but as a team player. I see this changing in our team and I believe this change in attitude will bring us success.”
After their Rio Games campaign ended in the quarters, India have begun the fresh Olympic cycle by winning the Asian Champions Trophy and the Junior World Cup.
Emphasising that India must continue to build on tactical and technical aspects as well as penalty corner conversion, Oltmans said a scientific approach to training will also be vital. “We will rely a lot on a scientific approach of training keeping in mind the new demands of international hockey,” he said.
“It is becoming such a fast sport where the players need to sprint and sprint almost throughout the game maintaining optimal energy levels. So, we need to make sure our training and testing programme is based on that, and how they cope with that pressure.”
India have roped in Scott Convay as scientific advisor to the senior team, whose support staff includes analytical coach Hans Streeder as well as former India stars Arjun Halappa and Jugraj Singh, as penalty corner expert.
India have a busy schedule ahead. They play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April, the World League Semi Final in June, the Asia Cup in September and the World League Final in December. “No doubt our focus is on 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2018 World Cup, but we have to get the confidence by doing well in all tournaments.”
FOCUS ON YOUTH
Eleven players from the Junior World Cup-winning squad have been inducted among the 33 core group of probables, but Oltmans said the youngsters were ready for the step up.
“Every country goes through a transitional phase. I know Holland already has 12 players from their junior squad though they finished seventh in the junior World Cup.
“These guys (junior players) know what is expected of them, and in the last four months of 2016, I have closely worked with these boys ahead of the Junior World Cup and they are aware of my working style.
They are elite athletes and are fully aware I expect nothing less than 100 per cent on the pitch in every session,” said Oltmans, whose contract runs till the Tokyo Games.