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Youngsters have learnt a lot from New Zealand tour: Indian hockey team coach Sjoerd Marijne

Indian hockey team’s strategy to field new players such as Dilpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Simranjeet Singh and Kishan Pathak paid off as all of them did well in their positions, and the Manpreet Singh-led side managed to beat New Zealand, Japan, and even Belgium during the tour.

other sports Updated: Jan 30, 2018 21:05 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Indian hockey team,Sjoerd Marijne,Hockey India
Indian hockey team did lost two matches to Belgium during the New Zealand tour, but the lessons will hold the team in good in the Azlan Shah Cup in March and the Commonwealth Games in April.(HT Photo)

The biggest gain for this Indian men’s hockey team on the exposure trip to New Zealand, recently, was that all 35 members of the core group were tested against strong teams such as New Zealand, Belgium and Japan.

“One of the things we went to New Zealand for was to develop our younger players by giving them an opportunity to play against world-class team such as Belgium. They got the experience of playing high-level international matches which will help them grow in the future,” said coach Sjoerd Marijne on his arrival at Bangalore late on Monday night.

India’s strategy to field new players like Dilpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Simranjeet Singh and Kishan Pathak paid off as all of them did well in their respective positions, and the Manpreet Singh-led side managed to beat hosts New Zealand, Japan, and even Belgium once in the league phase.

Though India did lose two matches to Belgium --- in the final of the first leg of the Four-Nation tournament at Tauranga 1-2 and 0-3 in shootout in the final of the second leg at Hamilton --- but the lessons will hold the team in good in the Azlan Shah Cup in March and the Commonwealth Games in April.

“We wanted to develop our attack and defense around the circle. We had been working on this aspect even during the camp in Bangalore,” said the Dutch expert, adding, “Looking at the way we performed, I think we have progressed but there is scope for improvement.”

Delving on the weak links, Marijne said the defence in and around the circle needed further improvement. “Even during the Hockey World League (HWL) Final, the consensus was that our defence in and around the circle needs to improve. Moving forward, too, I feel, we need to play fast and convert chances.”

On losing the final to Belgium in shootout at Hamilton, Marijne said, “Belgium is not one of those teams that will lose twice. We had beaten them before in round-robin, so to beat them again in the final would mean we had to be smart about how we played. But I am happy with the performance against one of the best teams in the world but we need to remain critical about the loss in order to improve.”

Marijne termed the performance of debutant players satisfactory. “At this level, it’s not just about having the potential; it’s also about the mental side. Every time, they have to perform at the highest level with high pressure.

“It is a process… and if they did well in New Zealand it doesn’t mean they will be successful in future or they will secure their place in the team. They have to be consistent over and over again.”

Skipper Manpreet sounded excited about the trip. “Playing Belgium four times gave us the opportunity to analyse our game against a top side. They were the only team we lost to while we won all our matches against New Zealand and Japan.”

“Belgium are also in our group for the World Cup this year and we might play them again in the Champions Trophy in the Netherlands. We beat them once, but we could have beaten them in the final too but we conceded goals in the end,” he said.

Comeback man PR Sreejesh expressed satisfaction with his performance, having returned after an eight-month injury layoff. “It was good to be back in competition after a long and testing injury phase. I was looking at that one save that would give me back my confidence. And, that one save was the penalty stroke in the final when Loick Luypaert took the drag flick and I managed to save it.

“Playing Belgium in the final is never easy. (But) team has made good progress under Marijne and we are high on energy for this important year.”

India’s next camp begins in Bangalore on February 12 after which the team will leave to compete in the Azlan Shah Cup and the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. In order to acclimatise to the heat in Gold Coast, India will reach Australia in the last week of April.

First Published: Jan 30, 2018 21:05 IST