Indian Hockey Needs Consistency.
FIH Hockey Pro League: Hockey India named men's hockey team for the next leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
There is no scope for the Indian men's hockey team to rest on its laurels after the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and it's up to the players to ensure that they develop the required consistency to keep improving as individuals and as a group, new head coach Craig Fulton said. The podium finish at the last Games came after a 41-year wait and there was much relief and celebration when the long drought came to an end. But fulton emphasized that it can't remain a one-off achievement. The subsequent big event, the Hockey World Cup on home soil, saw India bow out of contention before the quarterfinal stage.
"If the players don't want to improve on the bronze medal, there's not much I can do as a coach, " the South African said. " One needs to develop the belief and consistency to maintain the 'Olympic Standard' that they have set". It all comes down to the culture and environment of a group, Fulton, who has worked with the Belgian and Irish set-ups before taking over the India job, said in an online media interaction. "It depends on the accountability, teamwork and leadership in the group. The players need to lift each other and maintain the required spirit. They need to keep each other on their toes. Iron sharpens iron". India's performances since Tokyo have been quite erratic. The early ouster from the home World Cup was a debacle, and cost head coach Graham Reid his job.
But the display in FIH Pro League games against Germany and Australia, in which India remained unbeaten, was a boost in confidence, and are at the top of the points table in the tournament. Those games were played with high performance director David John stepping in on an interim basis. It's been just two and a half weeks since Fulton took over at the national camp at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru. Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, will continue to lead the team in the next round of games as the team travels to Europe-first to London to face Great Britain and Belgium twice each, and then to Eindhoven to take on hosts the Netherlands and Argentina in a couple of matches apiecep. The defender experienced the high of Tokyo, but stressed that there was no question of being satisfied and the players wanted more.
Inconsistency has been the bane of Indian hockey for decades, but Fulton said it was an issue with most sides. "It's a big problem for everyone, not just India. Teams aim to win back-to-back matches in big tournaments, quarterfinals and semifinals, and a few bad minutes can put a side out. It's important to have our best game at the end. " Mental fragility at key moments of big matches has been another drawback of the team for a long time, and the new coach said there was some movement to address that weakness". I have been in conversation with Hockey India and looking to fill that gap in our preparation. It's a priority area and we are busy on it", Fulton said. Harmanpreet made no secret of the feeling that a mental conditioning coach or psychologist-whatever designation one uses to describe the expert-will help the players.
"The team will definitely benefits as the specialist will analyze the mentality of the players and help them improve. It also depends on how long the expert is with the team, " he said. Talking about where he sees the Indian team at the moment and where he aims to take them, Fulton, 48,said there was work to do. "We are a good side, not the best side. Ideally, we should be aiming at the gold medal, but there is a gap between us and the top two teams in the world. In a short and medium term, we need to be the no. 1 team in Asia consistently, and reach the podium in whichever tournament we play. First of all, we need to win the Asian Games gold medal to qualify directly for the Paris Olympics, and all our medals before the Asiad will be geared with that goal in mind. "India is very difficult to play against at home, and generally anywhere in Asia. But as most of the big tournaments in the next few years are scheduled outside the continent, we need to become better overseas", Fulton said.
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