Bengaluru: The Indian hockey fraternity experienced a seismic shock when Roelant Oltmans was shown the door, effectively bringing his vision for a team that has flattered to deceive in 2017’s big-ticket tournaments crashing to the ground. The dust has just settled but the murmurs questioning the way forward continue. It’s no skin off his back though, as new coach Sjoerd Marijne focuses on the task at hand — the Asia Cup — set to begin in Dhaka on October 11.
The Dutchman, who took on the men’s job after leading the women’s side for six months, arrived on Friday at the Sports Authority of India’s Bengaluru centre to take stock of the squad building up to the year-ending World Hockey League finals in Bhuvneshwar. But perhaps that is still a bridge too far as the Asia Cup puts India alongside Japan, Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh. Marijne is a pragmatic man after all.
“The Asia Cup will be an important tournament for me to see where we can develop our game. It’s important we’re back in the present. The first match in the Asian Cup is against Japan. And we go on from there,” the 43-year-old said.
Marijne was the best man for the job due to his understanding of Indian culture, according to high-performance director David John, and says he looks forward to the challenge,
“The first challenge is to get to know the team. I know the names, but I don’t know the players’ behaviour. That’s what I’ll be experiencing in the following months. The players have to take initiative.”
John is working closely with Marijne to outline a definitive tactical style that filters down the hockey ranks to create a uniform identity. The player-driven, coach-assisted approach is the key cog of this ambitious undertaking that notches up the internal competition for places. “It’s not about what I want. It’s about what we want,” quipped Marijne when asked about his preferred style.
“I felt over six years with six international coaches the style has changed too much according to the nationality of the coach or his preference. The players had never really been asked their opinion. I think this group of players have a good maturity, hockey knowledge and can provide good experience back to the coaching staff. For the last two weeks the senior players have driven the training sessions with our assistance,” John explained.