Viren Rasquinha: "Every other team is within range of the Indian men's hockey side"
Former captain of the Indian Hockey national team, Viren Rasquinha was in Mumbai as part of the 50-day countdown to the Olympic Games which will be aired on Star Sports. Viren is currently the CEO of OGQ - a not for profit organisation that aids Indian athletes to be competitive at the highest level in sport. He spoke to Sportskeeda about a wide range of topics
Q: So Viren, must be a busy time for you? You are part of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ)
It is a busy time but a time that we enjoy. This is what we’ve been preparing for the last seven years. It’s exciting to see so many of our athletes participating in their first Olympics. Some at their 2nd, 3rd and even 4th time. Gagan, Vikas Gowda and Yogeshwar are going to their 4th Olympics. We have to do everything possible in the back end to ensure that they get the best possible support. At this point, with 50 days to go, I think those one percent aspects are very important. One percent better coaching, training, equipment, nutrition and recovery. All this adds up.
Q: What do you tell the Olympic debutants?
See, there’s not just one thing that you tell him across the board. Every athlete has different challenges. Even within a sport, the needs, challenges and problems they face are different. The key thing is to build rapport, trust with the athlete. Once you build trust, then they start telling you their issues. Once they tell you their problems, then you can find the solutions. It’s about keeping things as simple as possible. Don’t overcomplicate, overthink and over train.
Q: Give me an example of how OGQ has helped a particular athlete in difficult times?
I think the best example would be a boxer who had a hand injury at a camp in Patiala. Once he got the injury no one bothered about him. He’s of no use to India and suddenly he’s treated like dirt. At that point of time, as a rule in OGQ, if any of our athletes get injured and need to go to the doctor, someone from our team will accompany them. When they’re sick or injured, that’s the time when they need the most support. Right from the time he had his hand surgery to the three months of his rehab, we were there. When they’re doing well, there will always be hundred people to help. When there’s no spotlight and when there’s no one watching, that’s time you have to be with them.
Q: Can you talk about this new looking Indian hockey team? Any difference in the style of play?
I am not a big fan of styles of play whether it’s European style or Asian style. It’s about finding an effective style. You can call it by whatever name. I think for me, coach Roelant Oltmans is one of the top brains in world hockey. The right man to be guiding the Indian team. I had no doubt in my mind that if you give him a year, you’ll find the level of play much better including the structure of the Indian team and the strategy that they play with. Defensively we’re much better. He’s a smart guy and knows how to get things done. I am not surprised to see them playing well at the Champions trophy. But still there are a lot of issues where we need to find solutions. Like conceding goals in the last minutes. Conceding too many short corners. So still a long way to go.
Q: What does captain, Sardara Singh bring to the team?
It’s just his sheer experience. Sardara is a big match player and lives for the big occasions. He’s really well respected not just by the Indian players but by all the top players in the world. His presence over there in the heart of that midfield is very crucial. His role is going to be immense. There’s going to be a lot of burden on his shoulders not just as a player but also as the leader of the team. He can inspire and push them to the next level. It’s very important that he performs both those roles well, as a player and a leader.
Q: Are you surprised by India’s current form? It’s been good.
No. At the Athens Olympics, Oltmans was coach of the Pakistan team. I know he took them to a really high level. He’s an Olympic gold winning medal coach with the Dutch team. He’s won the world cup. So he knows international hockey from the back of his hand. He knows the players really well. But getting a medal at the Olympics is unrealistic. The first goal is to reach the quarterfinal. We should not think too far ahead. As long as we avoid Australia in the quarterfinals, we have a chance. I think only Australia is a little bit out of our range. Every other team is within our range.
Q: What do you think makes Australian hockey team is so special?
It’s just the sheer volume of attacks and the pace that they play at. Plus, their physicality that they use. Indians find it very hard to cope with that pace and physicality. They’ll just attack you so much and create so many opportunities. They’ll create 20 chances and score 5. It’s hard to match that kind of work ethic and efficiency. And they do it against every team. 2014 world cup, in Holland, they beat Holland 6-1 in the final. Every team was beaten by a four-goal margin not just India. So every team struggles against them. When they’re at their top of their game, there is very little that you can do.
Q: What do you reckon are the chances of the Indian women’s hockey team?
See we have to understand that it’s a great achievement for them to qualify for the Olympics. It’s unrealistic to expect medals. Top 10 would be great for me. Hats off to them for getting till here. Anything that they get above 10, is a bonus.