We can beat any team in the world: Indian men's hockey team head coach Roelant Oltmans
It has been an exhilarating journey for the current Indian team’s head coach Roelant Oltmans since starting his coaching career with the Dutch National Women’s team in 1989. The Dutchman went on to coach the women’s team till 1993 after having being crowned World Champions in 1990. He then moved to take the reigns of the Dutch men’s team and found success there as well; leading them to the Gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and as well as the 1998 World Cup.
The 61-year old head coach took the realm of the Pakistan National men’s team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, a position he vacated for his second stint with the Dutch men’s national setup. He went on to coach the Dutch side till the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the Dutch team finished 4th.
Roelant Oltmans believes the Indian men’s team is moving in the right direction as per their preparations for the Rio Olympics are concerned. The 32 probable for the Rio Olympics are currently taking part in a month-long training camp at the Sports Authority of India campus in Bangalore.
With just 5 months to go for the start of the Mega event in Rio, Oltmans is satisfied with the team's composition and balance at the moment and told Sportskeeda his thought going into the Azlan Shah Cup.
"Yeah, I think it is a good combination, what we have here is a group of youngstrs with some experienced players and the youngsters are pushing themselves. We have experience and on the other side, we have the youngsters who are pushing the experienced players. That’s exactly what we want!”
"On a given day, we can beat any team in the world”
The Blues are placed in a difficult pool consisting of Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Argentina and Canada in the Olympics. The Dutchman is mindful of the tough competition that lies ahead but is confident of the team's ability to beat any team on any given day.
Oltmans added, “Yes, we are absolutely moving in the right direction, there is no doubt about it. But, it is really difficult to say where we will finish before the tournament commences, we know it is a tough group, there are a number of teams which are more consistent than we are. However, in the last 2 years, we have shown on a given day, we can beat any team in the world."
"What we have to do is to perform up to our best, and in a consistent manner throughout the Olympics, that’s what our aim is, that’s what we are working on”, the Dutchman goes on to say.
The Indian team’s recent record at the Olympics has not been that good. The Blues failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics while finishing last(12th) in 2012. But this time around the team is fresh from registering their 1st medal in 33 years at an FIH tournament as well as winning test series in Australia, New Zealand and France.
“We are just thinking of what all things we need to do to keep that level of performances going”
When enquired about what all changes he had to make when he took over, he replied, “We both are Dutchman, so I didn‘t need to change all the things. We have played many tournaments since then, but the good part is, we have won many of them. We won the test series against Australia, a test series against France, a test series against New Zealand and finally we won a medal at an FIH tournament after 33 years. But in the end, all these things don‘t count if fail to perform at the Olympic Games. We are just thinking of what all things we need to do to keep that level of performances going.”
The Indian team is due to take part in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April followed by the Champions Trophy to be played in the month of June. Then they are scheduled to take a 5 day stop in Madrid before moving to Rio to take part in the Summer Olympic Games.
“Youngsters coming up need to execute our philosophy on the pitch”
Speaking on the importance of these two tournaments, Oltmans said, “Of course, they are preparation tournaments for all of us, the boys have to adapt to the new structure, especially the defensive structure, that’s what we are working on here at the SAI camp, and only way to see how it works, is to test them in serious (good) matches and that's why the Sultan Azlan Shah and the Champions Trophy are perfect for us.”
“And at the same time, it gives us the possibility to test new and different players. We will always keep the core of the group, but we need to give the senior players some rest as well as they have played quite a good amount of hockey in the last couple of years. What I need to do is to see some new youngsters coming up who can execute our philosophy on the pitch.”
There has been a number of youngsters added to the 32-man probable list, which can be also done in order to ready this team keeping the next Olympics in mind as well. The 61-year old made it clear that the team is focussing on just one tournament here, and that is the Rio Olympics 2016.
He added, “We are only looking to perform there at our very best, but we are in a middle of a process, and that process must lead to better performances. Well sometimes within the process, young players come up and even go further than the senior players and that is the normal process. And if it happens to you as an older player, it is not the nicest part of your career, but things like this happen..”
Both men and women national teams will be felicitated at the Hockey India 2nd Annual Awards. The awards will be given in recognition of the excellence in performance for 2015 and overall contribution to the game of hockey.
The second edition of the most coveted awards in Indian hockey carries a total prize money of over INR 2.00 Crore. The awards will be held on 26 March 2016 in Bangalore which is also the current home ground of the national teams training at the SAI Centre.