Indian hockey team chief coach Michael Nobbs has said he is pleased with the performance of the youngsters who helped the side finish fourth in the Champions Trophy in Melbourne.
The Indian team’s showing in Melbourne was a big relief for lovers of the game after India’s 12th place finish in the London Olympics.
Even though Team India, consisting of many new faces, could not gain its first medal in the tournament after its bronze in 1982, the side managed to restore some pride after the London fiasco.
Nobbs said: “I think the selectors made a decision to pick a team for the future. We should be very proud of how the young boys played. Finishing in the semifinals and qualifying for the next Champions Trophy is fantastic,” said the coach on arrival here on Monday.
“The positive point is all the young boys played well. Rupinderpal was outstanding. P.T. Rao, the goalkeeper, was outstanding. Raghunath and Sardar Singh, the vice-captain and captain, absolutely led the team by example. Sardar, I think, was unlucky to miss out on the (FIH) ‘player of the year’ (award).
“The players played well under pressure. We were playing teams that are world-class, that are building themselves for the next Olympic cycle”
Nobbs showered praise on the Indian defenders, led by Raghunath.
“Outstanding. It was solid and tough defence,” he said.
According to Nobbs, who considers Olympic champion Germany as the “benchmark” in world hockey, India was trying to follow some of the aspects of the Germans’ game.
“One of the things we have picked up is ‘attack in matches, but defence in championships.’ If we have to adopt that, we have to be much tighter in a man-to-man situation. We have to be tougher, and we cannot play in the old-fashioned design.”
The Aussie, however, said he believed that the Indian team must continue with its attacking style of play because “that’s what wins games.”
Nobbs did not rule out the return of some experienced players.
“The selectors will pick those players who they think can benefit the country when required. We have to ask the question, which players will possibly be there in Rio,” he said.
The next challenge for India would be to defend its title in the Asian Champions Trophy, to be held in Doha from December 20-27. “It is going to be tough for India and Pakistan as we are facing some fresh teams,” said Nobbs.
The Indian players, some of whom are nursing minor injuries and bruises, will take a few days’ rest before resuming their preparations for the ACT.