India has begun life under new hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne on a winning note by winning the Asia Cup after ten years. It’s a significant win for India, despite being favourites going into the tournament as were the top-ranked team in Asia, given their performance in the HWL semi-final earlier in the year and the subsequent sacking of Roelant Oltmans.
However, despite the win, Marijne is still looking to fine tune the team. The 43-year-old Dutchman is hoping that the Hockey World League (HWL) Final next month will give him a proper idea of what needs to be done to take back to the top of world hockey.
“We are ready to compete in the World Hockey League final and we know we have to do better. We had to win the Asia Cup because we are the top ranked team in Asia. Now we have to opportunity to do better against team ranked higher than us,” Marijne told The Field.
“I will have a better idea of where the team stands [after HWL Final] because we will be facing the top teams in the world. I do know what is lacking in the team. I have seen videos and have my opinion about it but I want to see it with my own eyes,” said Marijne.
A clear picture
With the Asia Cup squad comprising of youngsters, the only notable senior players in the squad were Sardar Singh, SV Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, among others.
However, at the HWL Final in Bhubaneshwar, Marijne expects India to field its proper squad with players like Rupinder Pal Singh, fullbacks Birender Lakra and Kothajit Singh along with striker Mandeep Singh expected to return.
He said that competition for spots within the team is high. “Every tournament we see who performs the best and the internal competition is really high with three four players eyeing each spot. It is not affecting the team, which is good. We need the right balance of youth and experience,” said Marijne.
Talking about immediate improvements, Marijne said that India’s ball intercepting skills need to improve.
“We can and have to work on a lot of things. Like our moves for intercepting the ball. The more turnovers we have, it will improve our chances for scoring more goals. That is the area we have to focus on and we have to keep working on structure. We were only together for few weeks so I was really happy with the team’s achievement in a short span of time [in Asia Cup],” said Marijne.
Stick to basics
With India set to the play the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cup next year, Marijne’s priority is to ensure that India play without any pressure and stick to their basics.
“We will approach every tournament the same way. We will stick to our basics and do our own things. We will play with our natural flair and play without pressure. At this level there is bound to be pressure, which is a good thing I believe. It will be a good experience for the team. The players are motivated and everyone else in the squad is also ready for the next year,” said Marijne.
India’s ache: Penalty corner conversions
Talking about India’s penalty corner conversion, which isn’t up to the mark, Marijne said that the team has to using the variations better in order to improve their conversion rate.
“We played with variations... The conversion rate to become higher and better is one of the big challenges for us. We are working on it in every training session. We have to add to our variations and start mixing them better,” said Marijne.
With India sixth in the World, Marijne believes that it is up to the players to decide what they want to achieve as a team and not what the coach wants. “I am guiding a proper team and it is more important to know what they want. I want to know where we have to reach as a team and what are we working for. So the goal from the team is the same for me,” said Marijne.