With Graham Reid set to take over as the coach of the Indian men’s hockey team, there is no doubt that he will have his work cut out with a lot of issues that need to be fixed. Reid, who has coached Australia to numerous victories, including World League and World Cup will be India’s third coach in two years.
The Indian men’s unit in the last couple of years has been inconsistent and only flashes of brilliance has been seen on the field. The team which was doing decent under Terry Walsh and Roelant Oltmans has often been found losing when it comes to business end of the tournament.
Here are five things that the new Indian coach need to fix:
When Devesh Chauhan left the international scene, Indian hockey team had good bench strength in Adrian D’Souza, PR Sreejesh, and Bharat Chettri with all of them having equal ability to take over the reins. But today with Sreejesh reaching the twilight of his career (David John doesn’t like his players over 30), the Indian team does not have any replacement as a custodian.
All this while, Sreejesh has been India’s first choice goalkeeper. Although India has tried the likes of Harjot Singh, Akash Chikte, and Krishan Pathak in goal, they have delivered mixed results. While Sreejesh can still do a good job under the bar, it is also time to think about who will take the mantle when he retires in the near future.
Youth Only or Mix of Experience
Since the 2012 London Olympics, India’s policy when it comes to players has been youth only and hoping that their fitness and youthful exuberance will help Indian team win the World Cup or Olympics.
The average age of players during 2014 World Cup was 23.5 and it was nearly same four years later at the 2018 World Cup. It is quite clear that this policy of Indian team is currently not working, and experience plays a huge role when it comes to team’s success.
The new coach right from the start should lay down the law about what he wants. Does he want to continue with young players or bringing back experienced players that can balance the team is a safer bet?
Graham Reid is fond of experienced players and the best example to the above is when he brought back Jamie Dwyer in the squad after he was sidelined by former coach Ric Charlesworth. It will be quite interesting to see that exactly does the new coach want – Youth or Mix of Experience.
The Selfish Approach
Yes, it’s a fact that Indian players are selfish, especially the forward line and this has been a major problem for Indian players for last few years that is clearly hampering team’s overall performance. All the players are so keen to outdo each other that they don’t understand that this approach is harming the team.
Against weaker sides, these players are able to score many goals (as we saw in the Asian Games) but when it comes to good competitive sides, they are heavily exposed, and the team ends up paying for this.
Against better teams, Indian forwards fail to score and even provide opportunity to penalty corner specialists to have a shot at goal. The new coach must figure out a way to get these players back to playing as a team and work towards team goals and glory instead of personal ones.
Good Scouting Network
There is no doubt that Indian hockey has a great crop of young players along with the new and exciting players who keep on coming every year. While the national camp focuses on just 25-30 players (which include the senior players), many good players fall of the radar and are lost due to poor system. Graham Reid will have to develop a scouting system to find new talents and make sure that these players are imparted necessary education that will help them to become good players for the future.
Develop Big Match Temperament
One area which Indian team seriously lacks is the big game temperament. Whenever a crunch situation arises, Indian hockey team falls like a pack of cards. Be it conceding last minute goals or failing to deliver at a major point in a tournament.
During recently concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, it was twice against Korea that Indian team faltered. First during the group stage match where they conceded a last-minute goal and then during finals when the players were overwhelmed by the big stage and conceded a goal. And it’s not just Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, over the years we have seen that Indian team failing to deliver during crunch moments and that has cost the team dearly.
Indian team will soon be taking part in the World Hockey Series that and winning the tournament will open the door for Olympics qualification. With the tournament being just couple of months away, Graham Reid will be under lot of pressure to deliver results to ever demanding Indian hockey fans.