Fresh from the Asia Cup silver-medal winning performance,Dutchman Roelant Oltmans said it is unlikely he will continue as the coach of the national team and insisted the new appointment will be made soon. Excerpts from an interview:
Is the second-place finish at the Asia Cup a satisfactory result?
* We are not completely happy with the outcome. We were close to winning the gold medal but came back with the silver. Though we have almost certainly qualified for the World Cup,we would have loved to earn direct qualification. Also Read: Cup half empty
Pakistan lost their semifinal before we played ours,which virtually assured us of a World Cup berth. Did that relieve the pressure a bit?
* We normally do not look at the other teams performance during a tournament. We are focussed on how we play and ensuring we win our match. But when Pakistan lost (the semifinal to South Korea),it meant that we had all but qualified for the World Cup. Our main target for the Asia Cup was to ensure that we make the cut for the World Cup. So yes,there was a sense of relief in the camp. The pressure was off us a bit and it showed in our semifinal against Malaysia,where we played free-flowing hockey. Also Read: Pakistan do India world of good
India has generally done well in the continental championship. So is this a correct yardstick to judge the team?
* This time,we had a fairly inexperienced and a very young side. So not much was expected from us going into the tournament. But the boys have to be credited for sticking to the game plan. There was a structure to the team and every player knew his role in the team,something that was lacking in the past. This is the reason we did so well till the semifinals. But we have to learn how to implement our game plan and maintain our structure in big matches. In the final,especially in the first half,we were erratic and that cost us the gold. So when we talk about judging the teams performance,it is areas like this that we need to focus on. When we repeatedly do these things right,we will be in a better position to challenge the European sides. This is a small step keeping in mind the bigger picture but its an important step. Obviously,there are still many areas that we need to work on. Also Read: Oltmans not happy with India’s 9-1 show,wants more
There were approximately 10 players in the team,who were a part of the junior squad.
* The average age of our team was 22 years and that is quite young. That in fact augurs very well for us. When you add the likes of SV Sunil,Gurwinder Chandi and Danish Mujtaba to this squad,it will only get stronger. Competition for a place in the starting XI is always a healthy sign. As a coach I am pleased that we are starting to reach a position where the players will fight for a place in the playing XI. And if the players manage to maintain their level of performance,it is a good sign. We have the talent in India but not enough talent. We will need some time to change that scenario.
Any youngster who impressed you?
* Players like Ramandeep Singh,Nikkin Thimmaiah stood up to the challenge,which was quite impressive. Ramandeep was a bit shy at the start of the tournament but as we progressed,he started playing really well. I feel he and Mandeep (Singh) did well. Mandeep scored five goals in as many matches and he is only 18. The kind of understanding he shows is quite incredible. Ramandeep has a very good vision and Mandeep has a very good sense of positioning. So that is a nice pair up front for us.
Will you continue as the coach?
* I met the Hockey India secretary general on Tuesday and discussed the future plans. My contract as the interim coach was till the end of the Asia Cup and I dont think that will change. In all likelihood,we will get a new man for the job.
Considering that 2014 will be a busy year for us,how crucial is it to appoint the new coach at the earliest?
* We have begun the process and will ensure the appointment is made soon. Though the national team does not have any immediate assignments,next year is going to be very busy. We have the World League finals in January and that will be followed by the World Cup,Commonwealth Games,Asian Games and the Champions Trophy. So the new coach will need time to get accustomed. But we cannot afford to make a hasty decision as it is important that we appoint a person with right attitude,who can be the leader of the team.