A lot has changed since German Gerhard Rach and his assistant Oliver Kurtz coached the Indian hockey team in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Nevertheless, Kurtz, who took over as the Oman coach two weeks ago, will bank on his experience of working with the Indian side to help the 36th-ranked Gulf country in its Hockey World League (HWL) clash against the home team at the National Stadium here on Wednesday.

Oman, which was earlier coached by former India international K.K. Poonacha, had lost 11-0 to India in the Asian Champions Trophy in December and would know what to expect from its date with the tournament favourite.

“We had played well in Asian Champions Trophy, where we had defeated Japan and scored against every team except India. Four of our best players could not come here as they did not get leave from their duty with the Army,” said Oman captain Abdul Jabar Al Balushi after his team’s 4-0 loss to China.

Kurtz said he would want the Oman team, placed 25 places below India, to learn and improve in the HWL.

The Indian team was high on confidence after its 16-0 win over Fiji. Chief coach Michael Nobbs was happy with the performance of the three debutants, Gurjinder Singh, Malak Singh and Mandeep Singh.

“It was a good match for the youngsters and it is a welcome sign that there is healthy competition among drag-flickers,” said Nobbs.

Gurjinder and Malak received Rs. 1 lakh from Hockey India for scoring in their debut match against Fiji.

Nobbs hoped that the team would improve with every match. “These boys cannot be complacent,” he said.

After meeting Oman, India will take on 15th-ranked Ireland on Thursday. Ireland, which rallied to beat Bangladesh 5-2, will face Fiji on Wednesday.


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