For the last few days, the Indian men’s hockey team have been put through a series of drills completely unrelated to hockey, like underwater swimming, catching a ball with eyes closed, throwing water balloons around and making sure they don’t break.
The World Cup-bound players have been doing these to get rid of the stress of past training and upcoming competition, according to coach Terry Walsh.
The Indians leave for the World Cup in the Netherlands on Wednesday, and Walsh is cautiously optimistic about his team.
“I think there is a possibility of making the top-four but not a very high chance. Miracles really do happen, and if everything falls right for us, we could get one,” Walsh said at the final training session ahead of the team’s departure.
The mental aspect, not surprisingly, was the focus of a lot of training.
“The first game will be a lot about confidence, which will be huge for both sides.
“The Belgians will be looking for a top-four spot, so they will play tough, but they will also be looking for a first-ever medal so they will be a bit fragile. We have been doing a lot of work on the psychological side of the players.
“A lot of things need to be changed and altered, very small things but they need to be done,” Walsh said.
However, he admitted the team has a long way to go. “I don’t think we are quite ready. I think, with a few good results in the first three games, we could end up in top-six and that would be great.
“From hereon, the focus will be on sharpness. Everything will be very short, precise, low volume and high intensity, making sure everybody knows what their roles are.”
Captain Sardar Singh agreed that self-belief was the key. “Everyone has to communicate well within the team. Our focus is on the first match against Belgium and we plan to take it one game at a time,” Sardar said.