Interview with Roelant Oltmans: "I never said Sardar Singh slows down the game"
An improving Indian hockey team already has the country dreaming of an Olympic medal. Roelant Oltmans fully understands what a medal would mean to Indian hockey, starved of success. The Dutchman talks about his team’s improvement areas and much more in an exclusive interview:
Q How would you look at India’s performance in the Six National Invitational Event in Valencia, Spain?
I think we were not able to maintain the same momentum like we did in the Champions Trophy, as we were trying out a few things and also because some of our players were injured – having said that I must say that the team competed in Spain, though the final outcome may never tell the real story. Our forwards were lacking with the final finishing but overall I’m not entirely disappointed with our efforts in Valencia.
Q Do you think that the first-ever final appearance in the Champions Trophy gives us hope of being a potential medal prospect at Rio?
Look, there was a time when this Indian team played to survive and make the most of counter-attacks against top teams, but that has changed now. We now compete against top sides and that is a big positive for the team.
Q India have beaten many top sides in last two years or so – do you think that top sides are beginning to take notice of us?
I don’t think any team can afford to take us lightly – top teams do respect us much more than they used to be in the past.
Q You played Sardar Singh as a forward in the Six National Invitational Event in Spain – your thoughts?
It’s not the first time that Sardar has played in that position – we follow a structure where every player has been given specific roles to perform and it is that part of them. Sardar’s skills sets suit him for that position.
Q You have said in a media report that Sardar at times slows down the game – your thoughts.
I have never said that Sardar slows down the game in midfield – I don’t know who wrote this stuff. All I said is that Manpreet Singh has the potential to play a good role in midfield position in future given his skill sets.
Q There is some concern that barring SV Sunil, all our young forwards – Akashdeep, Nikki, Ramandeep and Talwinder do not inspire confidence upfront. What’s your take?
I think some of these youngsters could be feeling tensed about whether they will make it to the Olympics squad. It’s only natural as they are young but once the team is announced they will be fine and perform at their peak form.
Q The Olympic squad will be announced next week – will there be any surprises?
Wait for July 12 noon – you will know it. I am not going to reveal anything now.
Q How kind of realistic expectations hockey fans can have from the Indian team in Rio?
I hate to say catch one-liners but I can tell you that this team have worked really hard in last many years and they deserve something ‘big’ – but then all other teams will think the same way. Our goal is to reach the quarterfinal otherwise the Olympics is over for us.
Q Imagine India winning a medal in Rio – what kind of celebratory gestures you plan to break into?
(Grins) Let us make a podium finish first and then you will see it for yourself what I dish out on the pitch.