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Overworked Harmanpreet cost India Hockey World Cup: Former coach Roelant Oltmans

Former coach of the Indian Hockey Team Roelant Oltmans decodes what went wrong for Harmanpreet Singh and co. at 2023 World Cup.

Overworked Harmanpreet cost India Hockey World Cup: Former coach Roelant Oltmans

Pritish Raj

Published: 28 Jan 2023 11:10 AM GMT

Bhubaneshwar: The 2023 Hockey World Cup is just a day away from the conclusion. India's early exit took the sheen off the tournament a bit early for the hosts and Graham Reid and his boys have been subject to immense criticism since.

Bad penalty corner conversion, lack of mental fortitude, long national camps, choking in the crucial moments - these are just some of the reasons pointed out by former players, pundits, and experts regarding India's world cup debacle.

The Bridge caught up with the former coach of the Indian men's hockey team, Roelant Oltmans, to understand what went wrong for the men in blue in the tournament.

India's dismal show- Who is to blame?

Talking about the dismal performance of Indian skipper and primary drag-flicker, Oltmans said, "It is difficult. In a team, you always know who are the leaders. Harmanpreet has shown that he has developed so much from the Junior World Cup finals back in December 2016."

"He is the penalty corner specialist and leader of the defense. I am sure Harman can lead any team but when he already has two prime responsibilities, do you want to give him an extra one? I know he is a very calm player but an increase in workload and too many responsibilities can put someone off for sure," he added.

Oltmans, who has worked with the likes of Harmanpreet Singh and other players from the group 2016 Junior Men's World Cup, emphasised the importance of having a mental coach - something which Graham Reid spoke about immediately after India's exit.

"All sports are a mixture of multiple things. There is always physical, technical, and mental aspect. We have coaches for skill development and physical trainers for fitness. Similarly, there is a need for mental conditioning coach to harden the mental fortitude of the players," said the Dutch coach.

During his time in various roles from 2013 to 2017, Roelant Oltmans always raised the importance of a mental conditioning coach with junior and senior teams both.

"HIL was a great boost for the younger players. The players from the age group of 20 would get to rub shoulders with the best in the world. The 2016 batch of the junior world cup was helped massively by the exposure of HIL," he said.

"There are a few players who I do not see anymore and they are out of the system. So it is important to maintain the process of producing a new group of youngsters to replace the outgoing players," Oltmans added about the benefits of the now-defunct Hockey India League.

HIL was a franchise-based league that gave Indian youngsters a platform to play along with the best players in the world and experience international level of hockey.

Penalty Corner Goal Conversion

The 2023 Hockey World Cup witnessed a surprising dip in the number of goals from penalty corners with teams finding new ways to defend the penalty corners. Till the semi-finals of Hockey World Cup, only 86 goals were scored off 421 penalty at a dismal 20% conversion rate.

Talking about the dip in penalty corner conversion, Oltmans said, "It is up to coaches and teams how they evolve now. If you see that drag flick is not working then focus on something else and use some variation. England scored from the hit and Korea also did. In the end, there are four defenders and one goalkeeper, the teams need to evolve."

"The teams need to think about how to increase this conversion rate from 20% to maybe 50% or 60%," he further added.

The World Cup in Odisha saw some huge upsets and attacking hockey, making it the highest-scoring world cup ever.

"This tournament has been of the highest quality. Compared to the Olympics where teams were less prepared due to the pandemic, this one has been a brilliant tournament altogether. Teams have played attacking hockey and that is what everybody wants to witness- more and more goals," Oltmans concluded.

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