Coach Sjoerd Marijne’s introductory session with the Indian men’s hockey team this weekend focused on a primal task.
Much like he handles the light-hearted puns on his name. Sjoerd rarely flinches over uncomfortable questions on his suitability for the role.
Indian hockey is on a high at the moment. Both the men’s and women’s teams were recently crowned Asian champions. They achieved a feat for only the second time in history.
The Men in Blue will have to put aside their latest triumph and turn their attention towards being not just Asia toppers, but world beaters. They take on heavy-duty opposition at the World Hockey League finals in Bhubaneswar from December 1 to 10. Along with world no. 1 Argentina. India are the only other non-European team to compete at the eight-team extravaganza. They will undoubtedly look to silence critics upon the big stage.
In the position left empty by 43-year-old Dutchman’s switch to the men’s side is now Harendra Singh. He is famously led the junior men’s team to the World Cup title last year and was tipped to take Oltmans’ job.
While speed was central to his predecessor Sjoerd’s plans, Harendra feels the concept needs to be broken down further for better execution. “Often while we focus on speed we forget that it is tough to run fast if the ball is coming slow, so the transfer of the ball from sides and passing should be of the same speed,” he says. “Once the speed of your pass is quick, the receiver automatically catches up.”
The current men’s squad is ushering in a new era for Indian hockey with gusto. Resplendent with new blood in every part of the pitch, the right blend of experience and youth remains key.