Vastly improved fitness notwithstanding, the Indian hockey team will need a pool of around 30 players to get through the season's competitions feels head coach Michael Nobbs.

“We just can't have one team playing all the tournaments as the injuries will shoot up,” he said here on Saturday, the first of two days of trials to select the aforementioned 30, a number that includes the 18-member squad for the Asian Champions Trophy. “There is no way 16 guys can play all the way to the Olympic qualifiers. We need to put pressure on everybody in the team with two or three players for every position.”

The progress in fitness over the last month and a half, though, was clearly visible Nobbs said. “I think we are still not fit enough but we have made a huge start.

“For example, Sandeep Singh has lost four kilos and gained two kilos in muscle mass. He has started to look a lot fitter. The boys' speed has improved and now we need to start working on our patterns.”

Nobbs expressed satisfaction with the way the selection trials had gone on, with players divided into groups of two and put through a practice match.

“We structured the trials today in a certain way so that we could judge players who can play well under pressure. We had a group with a good forward line playing against a group with a good defensive line.

“I gave specific instructions to specific players and was judging them on that basis.”

Two days were enough for the process, he felt. “I've seen them for about three weeks while the other coaches have seen them for 45 days now.” Exercise physiologist David John — expected to arrive early in the week — had been consulted on the condition of a few players, and the former had not objected to their participation, Nobbs said.

Keywords: Michael Nobbs

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