Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Jul 2017 12:20:46

INDIAN hockey coach Mr. Roelant Oltmans has said that failures of past in some major tournaments have not been a deterrent in his quest to make the national team world class. Mr. Oltmans says that ever since he took over as the national coach four years ago he has seen the team improving. True that Mr. Oltmans has been relentless in his quest to restore the lost glory of Indian hockey and see the team once again reemerge as the force to reckon with in world hockey. The Indian hockey federation, Hockey India (HI), has given Mr. Oltmans much freedom in managing the affairs of the national team and also grooming young players in various age groups for spotting talent and thereby improving the bench strength of the national team. 

But the performances of the Indian team at various major international tournaments in recent past are hardly inspiring. As compared to the 2016 performance the team seems to have hit a lean patch this year. In 2016 the team had hit a purple patch when it won silver medal at the Champions Trophy, which earned it the fifth position in International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) standings. That such success came after remaining in wilderness in world hockey after 12 years was indeed creditable. That gave hopes of resurgence of the Indian hockey team. But inexplicably, the advent of 2017 saw it slumping to the sixth position. That the team failed to qualify for playing in the prestigious Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia was a pity.

This raises the question whether Indian hockey lacks the solidity, consistency and skills or whether the players are unable to retain their verve to perform for long periods. If this be so, then it raises the issue of fitness of the players which is so essential to compete at the highest international level. This is either the case of the Indian players falling short of expectations or the players of foreign teams like Netherlands, Australia, England have raised the bar of their performance so high that the Indian players are woefully falling short of those levels. Either way, Mr. Oltmans must feel concerned about this and take measures to bring about required changes in the boys’ training to realise his team of taking the Indian team to top of international hockey.

However, it is to the credit of Mr. Oltmans that he is all the while looking for talent among junior players and take them under his patronage for honing their skills. Team-building is a long drawn process and it has to be begun from the lowest rung. It is necessary to promote the game right at the school level with time-bound competitions becoming the integral part of talent search. It is important to promote hockey at various levels to build a large pool of talent over years. The Indian Super League (ISL) also could open the window to talent search.