Roelant Oltmans is a hard taskmaster but not above having a few laughs after a tough training session. It’s another matter that the boys tend to get all serious in his presence.
The Dutchman, acting as the interim Indian coach for the men’s Asia Cup in Ipoh (Malaysia) later this month, insisted he was satisfied with the preparation of the team for the crucial tournament. He was, however, cautious about a title triumph, crucial for India to book a place at the 2014 World Cup.
“The only thing in our hands is to ensure that the boys prepare in a way that they are able to perform to the best of their abilities, and I am confident that they are prepared,” Oltmans told The Hindu before the team’s departure.
Raw forward line
A spate of injuries to key players has forced the team management to name a raw forward line. Oltmans, though, has no plans to go soft. “There will be no let up in practice. I am not afraid of injuries. In fact, it is more dangerous if they don’t go all out because then the concentration levels will drop and chances of injuries increase,” he said.
The team also has the services of Dave Staniforth, the new goalkeeping coach. “He has only been here for about a week and there is not much he or anyone can do in such a short period. We have been working on specific things like penalty corner defences and shootouts. What is good is that we actually don’t need to work too much in goal-keeping, it’s one of our strengths,” Oltmans said.
Forced to take charge after Michael Nobbs was sacked last month, Oltmans wasn’t too concerned about the extra responsibility.
While he was happy with the skills and attitude of the 18-member squad, Oltmans admitted that the mental aspects needed conditioning. “There are some areas that need improvement, may be in tactics. They are young and learning. They will make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I still do. The important thing is to not give up on the effort,” he said.
Even though India has a relatively easier pool — clubbed with Oman, Bangladesh and Korea — the inevitable India versus Pakistan question comes up. Interestingly, Oltmans is perhaps the only coach in modern hockey to have worked with both these teams.
“It’s lovely to watch them play. The two teams are completely skill-based, even though sometimes you do tear your hair when you see them tactically. I can’t say when and where we will play Pakistan but whenever we do, we will be prepared,” he said.