Former India men’s hockey head coach Roelant Oltmans has blamed lack of strategic awareness and absence of club culture for India’s early exit from the current season of the FIH Men’s World Cup.Sudden death in crossover match against New Zealand I narrowly missed out on a place in the quarterfinals after trailing 4-5. India’s current head coach Graham Reid also expressed concern about the lack of club culture after the Hockey India League (HIL) disbanded in 2017.
In an interview to ‘PTI-Bhasha’, Oltmans, who was associated with the Indian team as head coach from 2015 to 2017, said, “There is no club culture in India, this is definitely a reason for being out of the tournament.” . Players need to keep playing the game which has been lacking in the absence of more club level matches.
The Dutch coach, who was the High Performance Director of Indian hockey from 2013 to 2015, said, “There is no doubt that these Indians are excellent hockey players. But you need to know what to do at what moment of the game. If suddenly, you are playing against 10 players, then you have to understand what to do.
With the score tied 3–3 in the fourth quarter against New Zealand, Nick Ross received a yellow card in the 53rd minute and was suspended for five minutes. The Indian team failed to take advantage of this and lost the match in the penalty shootout.
Oltmans, who was the head coach of the Indian team at the Rio Olympics, said, “India had five minutes before the end of the match when a New Zealand player was off the field. What was India doing at such a time? You need to play strategic game and implement the plans properly. “He said,” Germany scored two goals in the last three minutes (against England) and India needs to work on doing something like that. Conditioning is not a coach. He said that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) center in Bengaluru was with a psychological team when he was taking charge of the team.
“Absolutely, it (having a mental conditioning coach) makes a difference. When I was the head coach before the (Rio) Olympics, I had a psychologist on my staff. It is more or less like a mental conditioning coach.
“For the physical part of the game, we have physical training, for the tactical part of the game, we have tactical training, for skill training we have drag-flick trainers. But the mental aspect made a big difference and we don’t have any trainers there. It is strange. He said that captain Harmanpreet Singh had too many responsibilities and it might have affected his performance in the World Cup. Harmanpreet struggled to score with her drag-flick, which is believed to be a key factor in India’s early exit from the tournament.
Oltmans said, “In a team, you always know who is leading you. The world has been watching Harmanpreet’s game since the 2016 Junior World Cup. Now we are talking about 2023. Over the years he has shown that he is an important player.
“He (Harmanpreet) is leading the defense and he is the main penalty-corner taker. We want to give him so many responsibilities at the same time. I am sure he has the qualities to lead the team but too many responsibilities can affect the game. However, I know that he is a very calm and relaxed player in stressful situations.