Commonwealth Games 2018: 'India vs Pakistan special for fans, but we stick to our plan,' says coach Sjoerd Marijne
The preparations have been long and exhaustive. The moment of reckoning is finally here and it is now time for India to execute all they have planned and practised for over the last couple of months.
There is a long history of over 60 years of hockey between India and Pakistan, with a rivalry perhaps unparalleled in the hockey world. Yet, the time is not for emotions to be stoked, but to rather focus on the task ahead, says India head coach Sjoerd Marijne.
On the eve of their first encounter of the Commonwealth Games, the Indian coach had an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda from the Games Village in Gold Coast.
Sportskeeda: The players we spoke to in the Bangalore camp told us that India vs Pakistan is just another match. Given the history, the rivalry, the huge crowds, and the emotions involved do you feel that is truly the case? What is the most important thing you will tell the players before the match?
Sjoerd Marijne: The players have expressed their opinion and that is right. That is really what they feel. It is important to focus on the match.
It is an important match for the Indian people. The focus, however, will be on ourselves. That is not just for the match with Pakistan but for every match. That is the mental state I want for the team.
The most important thing for us is to maintain our structure, not get emotional, and stick to the plan. If we do that, we don't have to worry. All individuals have to perform their tasks. That will lead to a good game and if we play a good game, we will win.
Sportskeeda: Given the fact that a lot of the players will be playing an international match after a long gap, do you feel they will take time to settle down and find their rhythm in the first match?
Sjoerd Marijne: I agree with you. The first match of a tournament is never easy. We have had three practise matches to get the right rhythm. We have improved with every match. The last match against Canada was really good. I was happy with the rhythm.
The structure was good and the agreements were clear. We are ready to start the tournament and you could really see that after the last match. We focused on the things we wanted to improve from the previous matches and took it from there.
Sportskeeda: At the end of a long preparatory camp, the moment is finally here for the action to start. Are you satisfied with the preparations?
Sjoerd Marijne: We are really happy with the preparations. In the camp, we trained hard on specific areas like PCs and also on defending in the 25-yard line. The moment is here now, and all the boys are hungry for the ball and that is what we wanted to create. They can't wait to start tomorrow.
Sportskeeda: Which teams have looked impressive, so far, in the tournament according to you?
Sjoerd Marijne: England have impressed. They played well against Malaysia, winning 7-0. New Zealand also did really well with a 6-2 win against Canada. We have to keep watching these teams to see if they can maintain this level constantly. Tomorrow is our turn to start.
Sportskeeda: Are the players fully acclimatized and comfortable in the Games Village?
Sjoerd Marijne: Yes, the players are acclimatized, but it will not be easy with the match scheduled to start at 1430 tomorrow under the hot sun. Of course, Pakistan too will face the same problem. It will be a challenge.
The humidity is very high and the sun is very different here from how it is in Bangalore. We have to experience the heat here. We have trained really hard and the fitness levels of the boys are good so I don't think we have to worry.
The village is well organized. We don't have to walk much and the location is good. The boys have seen all kinds of things in the Village over the last 4 or 5 days. So, they feel normal now and that is perfectly how it should be before a tournament.