With only about a year to go for the Rio Olympics, Hockey India selector Harbinder Singh has raised concerns about the performance of the men’s team. "There are certain critical flaws that need to be addressed," the Olympian said.
India finished fourth at the recently concluded hockey world league semifinals, but Harbinder said the performance wasn’t satisfactory. "I am worried about the way the team played," he said.
According to Harbinder, topmost on the list of concerns is India’s inability to convert penalty-corners. "It’s not even moderate at the moment. If this area is overlooked, it would further reduce our average goals per match."
He gave the example of world champions Australia who scored a thumping 6-1 win over Netherlands in the final of the 2014 World Cup at The Hague. During the final, of the six Australian goals, three were via penalty-corners and that helped them comeback from a goal down to destroy the Dutch.
Defence, according to Harbinder, is another area of worry. "We should give less space to rivals. Not conceding easy goals can tilt the balance in crucial matches," he said.
The Olympian was also disappointed with the basic trapping skills of international players. "We can’t ignore basics. We still have a year to go and there is scope for improvement. Otherwise the team is unlikely to do well." Harbinder also observed that conceding an early goal generally upsets the body language of players.
The other factor is indiscipline. "Indiscipline will not be tolerated. This should be a message to all," Harbinder said referring to midfielder Gurbaz Singh being ‘rested’. "The Punjab player needs to focus," he added.
On the change of guard, he said Roelant Oltmans would continue to be chief coach of the men’s team as he understands the core group of players better than anyone else at the moment. Supporting Oltmans, he said, "He has been with the national team as its high performance director for some time. So it’s an advantage to have him at the top."
Ric backs Oltmans
PTI adds: Ric Charlesworth too feels all is not lost for the Indian team but called on the administrators to stop sacking coaches needlessly. "You are lucky I suppose that Roelant Oltmans is still there. He has been known to the players and has been around for a while. But yes too much chopping and changing can’t be good for the team," he said.
The Western Australian said: "You should leave the coaching up to the coaches. You put them in charge and you let them do it. There are good things happening in Indian hockey of late but then you hear of something like this (van Ass ouster)."