The physical trainer of the Indian Hockey team Matthew Eyles has said that while India may not be the fittest nation in World Hockey currently, they would certainly be among the top five and can match-up to any team in the world at the moment.
Eyles took over from fellow countrymen Jason Conrath, as India’s scientific advisor(strength and conditioning) 18 months ago.
“In my opinion definitely we can consider India among top five nations on fitness front in world hockey.
"I don't think we are the fittest side at the moment. It's hard to compare. Australia and New Zealand are always physically good sides. But I think we can definitely match any team now,’ Eyles said, ahead of India’s crucial game against Malaysia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Wednesday.
“Physically they (Indian players) have improved a lot. When I got here 18 months ago, they were good, lot of them were very good natural athletes but now they have developed a good base. I think any strength and conditioning coach can't feel content, they always want more from their athletes.
"Their speed is good, endurance in good. They are looking really sharp at the moment. So I am happy with them.,” he added.
Tried to build a good base for the players: Eyles
When he was asked what he did do to improve the fitness levels of the players, the Australian said he had not tried anything out-of-the-ordinary and instead brought the focus back to the basics.
"When I arrived here I first assessed the fitness level of the players and then followed standard process. I just tried to develop their base and then build them up from there.
"I did just progressive things. We built a good base early on and then managed to just keep topping that up. We focused more on the speed and agility, and that got better and better. We have done a lot of work on the pitch and they are getting stronger. They have got a decent strength base,” Eyles said.
"There is always room for improvement but currently we are in a very good place," he added.
Talking about skipper Sardar Singh, who has been playing almost non-stop in the last few years, Eyles said that the 28-year-old centre-half is just about coping with his heavy workload and insisted that he didn't need a break as he has played close to the same number of matches as the rest of his teammates.
"Rating players is hard but he (Sardar) is one of the better players on fitness front. There will only be a few who can be best. He has a lot of match fitness, considering the amount of hockey he plays. He is just about managing and pushing hard when he can and backing him when he needs to be.
"I don't think we need to rest him now because I think we have managed him pretty well. At the same time he hasn't played any more than others. They have all basically played the same amount of hockey,” he said.
Dharamvir is among the fittest in the team: Eyles
When asked who the fittest in the present team is, Eyles said that Dharamvir Sigh would probably be on top, with regards to fitness and expressed happiness, in general, over their fitness levels.
“If I have to put a name, Dharamvir is probably one of the best fitness wise. There are also players like Manpreet (Singh), Kothajit (Singh) and Akashdeep (Singh) who have great pace on the turf. Generally, I am happy with all the players. I am happy with their averages, with our testing results,” he concluded.