Hockey World League Final 1st real challenge for India coach Sjoerd Marijne
Though Sjoerd Marijne has spent just over two months as the chief coach of the Indian men’s hockey team, he has been able to bring the best out of his wards, already inspiring them to the Asia Cup title.
Marijne replaced Roelant Oltmans in September after the Dutchman was sacked for openly blaming the boys for their poor finish at the Hockey World League semi-finals in June.
Unlike Oltmans, whose comments that the boys didn’t try hard for a win irked Hockey India, Marijne has avoided criticism and focused only on the positive qualities of his boys.
“Instead of letting the boys feel that they were already in the (Hockey World League) final (thereby making them complacent), he (Oltmans) should have encouraged them to press hard. By our high standards, a sixth place finish wasn’t acceptable,” a Hockey India official explained the reason for sacking Oltmans. What upset Hockey India most were the losses to Canada and Malaysia.
Marijne, on his part, hasn’t made any major change to the team or to the strategy. “I didn’t make any serious changes in players’ style or technique. I just told them about their strengths and the way to make full use of them,” Marijne said.
The results have begun to show. In October, the same team regained the Asia Cup after 10 years, beating Malaysia 2-1 in the final. India had last won the tournament back in 2007.
The win at continental level seems to have transformed the Manpreet Singh-led side which can now think of putting in a strong performance at the Hockey World League Final at Bhubaneswar (December 1-10) where the opposition is far superior to what India faced at Dhaka in October.
The Bhubaneswar event, in fact, will be the first real test for Marijne as Oltmans’ achievements at the continental level weren’t taken seriously. The selection committee had at the time of sacking him clearly said that wins at Asia level can’t be a benchmark for success. The selection committee chairman was quoted as saying, “We need to show results in key international tournaments.”
The message should be clear for Marijne too.
With a series of big events lined up for next year -- the Olympic qualifying round, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cup, India should look at this Hockey World League Final as a big opportunity to check their strengths and weaknesses.
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