Coach Roelant Oltmans stresses on the need to prove ability under real pressure after India lost to a lower ranked team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament.
India buckled under pressure last week when they were challenged with a two-goal victory requirement that would have got them a final spot.
Oltmans said that there is a need to be able to cope with such pressure. “We can play fantastic hockey and we have shown that often, but you need to prove your ability when there is real pressure,” he said.
“I don’t know, but I feel you have to be able to cope with that kind of pressure. If you really want to become a team that can compete with the best in the world, then you should have known how to score those two goals,” said Oltmans.
The Dutch coach said a powerful country like Germany would have scored more than two goals in a similar situation. He feels that India is not there yet. “We are not there yet. I am sure if Germany would have been playing that situation, they would have scored two or maybe three goals.
“That India still doesn’t do it marks the difference between us and the top sides in the world. That’s where work needs to be done,” he added.
However, Oltmans thinks that the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was a good test for the young Indian squad and that there was a good chance of improvement.
“I never take anything negative out of a tournament, I look at what we can improve as a team, which is different from being negative,” said Oltmans. “In any team, there is always room for improvement.”
“This is not the World Cup or the Olympic Games. This is the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which was a good test for the young players,” the coach said, adding that the tournament was a good learning experience. India is currently ranked sixth but failed to overcome lower rank countries like Japan and Malaysia.
“We came to Ipoh with several youngsters and a new combination. This was a very good learning experience for them and they do need some time to settle down at this level,” he said.
“We want to test ourselves in certain areas. If that means the results dropping down a bit at this moment, it is okay with me.” said Oltmans.
He said that time is on their side as they prepare for other tournaments this year. “A couple of players are not yet able to perform up to our expectations when the intensity of the encounter increases, but luckily we have enough time to improve that,” he said.
“There are some important tournaments coming up during this year. We must look at the bigger picture.”
Even though India had many goal-scoring opportunities, they could not capitalise on them. “If we look at the statistics, by far we have had more circle penetrations than our opponents in almost every match. We’ve got a lot of goal-scoring opportunities, but the way we converted them is not good enough. We’ve got to work on it,” he said.
“If we keep our defensive structure and create some more opportunities, I think the team’s future is bright,” Oltmans added.
India will now prepare for the World League Semifinals to be held in London next month.