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‘Still think India can win a medal at Tokyo 2020’

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Ex-coach Oltmans says, however, that it won’t be easy and short-termism won’t help

Roelant Oltmans had the longest stint of any foreigner in Indian hockey, but his end was like all his predecessors – swift, unexpected and before time. Currently serving out a one-month notice period, the Dutchman is, ironically, doing what he originally came here for before being wrapped up in a multitude of responsibilities at different times – developing a structure for domestic hockey. He spoke to The Hindu from Bhopal, where he is working with the MP Hockey Academy boys. Excerpts:

Now that the dust has settled and the change of guard completed, how do you look back at your journey in India?

Well, I have always maintained it’s not the easiest job in the world. At the same time, I think we have moved in the right direction for achieving what we wanted to achieve and, from my point of view, it’s a pity we cannot continue this journey. Hockey India has the right to take the decision, but I was very certain that we would get the results we were working for, that’s what I feel.

How do you see the team’s development in this four-year period?

The team has totally changed, to be honest, it’s not the same team any more. You cannot even compare it in any way to the one we had when we started in March 2013. The first tour we had, when we went to Holland, we could hardly beat seventh-position teams. If you see them now, where they are, it is closer to the top of the world again. It may be said that we are part of the World Cup as host but I wanted it not to be incidental and, from the end of 2015 until now, we have been very, very close that.

The one place I was really disappointed was the Olympics where I thought we could have finished higher. But from the end of 2015, winning bronze for the first time in 34 years in a major FIH event at the HWL Finals, silver at the Azlan Shah and winning the Asian Champions Trophy, silver at the Champions Trophy, there have been results. Then people think immediately it will translate into the next stage, that doesn't happen. We had certain new players coming in in March and it takes some time finding new combinations. But from whatever I saw on the pitch, and feedback from specialists from all over, we were already very close to it.

I could be sure we will win the Asia Cup and win a medal in Bhubaneswar (HWL Finals), that would be a very good start for the next year and confident of winning a medal at the World Cup. Yes, we cannot continue and people did not have the confidence of going on with that journey but it’s ok, let others show their stuff to manage the way I expected to do in the next two years.

Do you think it is a lack of patience with results that has seen so many foreign coaches being dismissed mid-term?

That is difficult to say. It certainly is one of the reasons, yes. But if you talk of results you cannot say that for 2015 and 2016. May be 2017 with London as the stepping stone...there are reasons for that, sometimes you can’t get the results now that you want in future. But if you say we don’t want long-term results, we want instant results... I am telling again that it will be very, very difficult in the coming tournaments because again the team has to adapt to a new coach. It is very obvious that that is not easy. There have been some really good coaches in recent years – Terry Walsh and Paul van Ass – who have taught a few new things to the boys.

How do you see this set of boys developing in the next few years?

Well I am not sure about that now. We had a certain strategy to play, certain gameplan to follow, certain way of training to follow. The boys are no doubt talented, that’s true, but if you ask me, if the boys will consistently be among the top-three, I don’t think so. I still think India has the possibility of winning a medal at Tokyo 2020 but the chance would have been bigger before than now.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 8:24:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/still-think-india-can-win-a-medal-at-tokyo-2020/article19694488.ece

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