Michael Nobbs has admitted that the Indian hockey team needs to work on its defence ahead of February's Olympic qualifiers. Speaking at the Sports Authority of India here, where the National camp got underway on Monday, the coach felt the team hadn't had much time between tournaments to iron out its troubles.
“The defence was always a concern,” he said. “We've concentrated on attack a lot because you win games by hitting goals. We've hit 17 and 29 goals in the last two tournaments — more than any recent Indian side that I can remember. We just haven't had the time to sit on the pitch and practise drill after drill to fix up the defence. It's not a difficult problem to fix. It's just a time issue.”
Nobbs also dismissed concerns over the team's temperament, attributing the yellow card shown to V.R. Raghunath in the final of the Champions Challenge — which he claimed had contributed to the defeat — to defensive organization rather than indiscipline.
“It tells us that we've got a few problems in defence,” he said. “We're not as mobile as we should be; we don't know our defensive patterns well. I don't think it's a temperament thing. It's also because of the way we play – this is an aggressive, attacking team that is not shy in coming forward.”
Nobbs also refused to view the fracas involving Pakistan in the four-nation tournament in Australia as a sign of any ill temper. “It would never have happened if we'd had strong umpires. It's not a temperament issue; India-Pakistan games are special.”
The three-week camp will feature 48 players, 22 of whom had arrived by Monday. The rest — with the exception of V.S. Vinay, Tushar Khandekar, and Rajpal Singh — will join before Wednesday. The camp would also offer a look at junior players — those that played in November's Sultan Johor Cup in Malaysia — and some Seniors that had recently not been involved, Nobbs said.
The camp will conclude on January 4, after which the team is expected to play test matches against international sides in Delhi.