The next 15 days is going to determine the fate of Indian hockey. With the Olympic qualifiers slated to begin on February 18 in Delhi, there is tremendous pressure on the home team to qualify. Though some of the big names in the team have been left out, the team is hopeful of finishing on top of the table. The team had failed to make the Beijing Olympics cut after they had lost out to England in the final of the qualifiers in 2008.
Speaking to Sportskeeda.com, former India hockey captain and member of the Indian team that played at the Athens Olympics, Viren Rasquinha, points out some of the key issues that India needs to focus on during the qualifiers.
India’s changes at the qualifiers:
The team’s first and most important aim should be to come to the final. We are not going to have a better chance than this to qualify. I am sure there is a lot of pressure on the team to qualify but at the same time I feel that we should play with a lot of confidence and agression because we are the favourites. On paper we should be able to thrash all these teams. Be aggressive and positive right from the start and we can’t take any game lightly.
The one thing missing in team India:
The only thing I see which is against the Indian team is that all opponent teams are physically very strong teams. They will use a lot of body weight against us. Indians should not be over-awed by physical play. In terms of skill, no where in the world can you find the skill our players posses. Every team in the world today has a short corner specialist. All they have to do is defend and then one counter attack and score. That is something we need to worry about.
On team composition:
I agree with the coach (Michael Nobbs) that the team needs to be selected based on form and fitness and the reputation of a player should not count but having said that I think Arjun Halappa is one of the best creative mid-fielders in the world today. And other than Sardara Singh there is not much creativity in the team. There are a lot of worksmen sort of players who will do all the hard work, the running around. But we also need players who can unlock. The Foreign teams’ techinique of defence is crowding the player while trying to defend, in such situation we need a player to unlock their defence and Arjun could have done that. Taking short corners is the key. We need to play to our strength.
Not many big names in the team:
Hockey in general needs bigger stars so that youngsters can look up to them. Today, the Indian team does not have house hold names like Dhanraj Pillai, Gaganajeet Singh or a Dileep Tirkey or Arjun Halappa. We need to build positive role models for the sport and the federation needs to work on that. It makes a positive impact.