Calm before the storm

To keep players fresh for Saturday’s opener,coach Nobbs cuts team’s workload

Written by Uthra G. Chaturvedi | New Delhi | Published:February 16, 2012 1:11 am

Ever since they came back from the Champions Challenge in South Africa towards the end of December 2011,the Indian men’s hockey team has been on the run. After a short training camp in Bangalore for a fortnight,they shifted to Delhi on January 10,and since then have been constantly practicing for almost 4-5 hours a day. In between,they also played an intense five-game series against a tough South Africa.

With the all-important Olympic hockey qualifiers to kick off on Saturday,the team is gradually calling time on its workload,ready to peak in actual competition. Chief coach Michael Nobbs,on his part,is making sure the players are raring to go when they take the field in the opening game,and part of his preparation,now that the qualifiers are just a couple of days off,is to keep them away from the field.

“It is a little difficult to keep them away from the game; they are always so keen to go out and play. But I want them raring to go and hit the ground running,” he said,when asked about the team canceling their evening practice session for the second day in a row. He added that keeping the players mentally ready to go all out in competition was as important as keeping them physically fit.

“We are ready to go right now but I am just trying to keep them on the boil now. I canceled a couple of sessions so that I don’t overtrain them. We now play a game among ourselves on Thursday to replicate the same time and playing conditions that we will face during competition,and will have slight training under lights on the last day,” he added.

Captain Bharat Chhetri,meanwhile,said the team had been concentrating on finishing games off. “We are addressing the problems that we face towards the end of the game. We will go into the game with the mindset that we have to attack early and set the game up from the beginning,so that we do not have much to do towards the later stages. France and Canada can be considered challenging teams but we will not change our style of play for any team,” Chhetri said on Wednesday.

‘No sanction for WSH’

Meanwhile,the FIH continues to stick to its stand that the World Series Hockey (WSH) remains an unsanctioned event. “As far as WSH is concerned,there is no change in our stance,it is an unsanctioned event because IHF is not a member of FIH,” FIH CEO Kelly Fairweather said.

“We have been clear about our position from the very beginning. The international calendar is packed. There are six qualification tournament till the Olympics,which means there is international hockey every week,” he said. About possible sanctions on players who opt for the WSH,Fairweather said it was up to the players. “The rules are very clear and we will go according to our rules. But at the end of the day the players need to make their own decision.”

However,Nimbus Sports,the co-organisers of WSH,have refuted the allegations. “The WSH is a domestic tournament in India and the country’s international commitments (for the present) would end on February 26 and WSH starts on the 29th.

The Indian players are not going to play the other five events that have been mentioned,” Nimbus’s Chief Operating Officer Yannick Colaco said. About the possible clash with international assignments,Colaco said,“Even in cricket there are bilateral series (in other countries) when the IPL is being played in India. In WSH 80 per cent would be Indian players. So where is the problem?”

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