It's too early to say whether India hockey is on the path to recovery or not following the team’s second-place finish in the Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh this May, but coach AK Bansal is confident his boys will bring back hockey’s glorious past soon.
One can see him interacting with players individually, listening to their problems and suggesting remedies. The players in turn want to ensure that they win and keep the coach’s head high. “To get positives out of them, you have to be their friend and teacher at the same time,” said Bansal.
“Indian hockey is in a transitional phase and continuous good performance at the top level will help the side bring back the lost glory,” he said, adding, “We all need to make a conscious effort to ensure the progress of Indian hockey to the world level. And to meet that end, the boys, coaches and officials will have to work towards a common goal.
Bansal expressed confidence about doing well in the Junior Asia Cup beginning at the Gacchibowli Stadium here on Friday. “The confidence is high. The boys are fit and raring to go. Before the Azlan Shah Cup, we had two good events and that’s the reason I am confident of a good finish here,” he added.
Bansal refused to accept that the defending champions were under pressure. “Nothing like that. I think a little pressure is a must as it pushes the boys to perform better. We have the advantage of fielding seven boys who played in the Azlan Shah Cup. Their experience of playing in Ipoh will hold us in good stead. “The tournament here is a great opportunity for the youngsters. If they do well here, it will help India’s cause at the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the 2010 Asian Games. The boys are playing fearlessly and giving their 100 per cent, which was lacking earlier.”