With a new coach at the helm in Graham Reid, the Indian men’s hockey team has been working on a new tactic to put pressure on the opposition — create chances and score as many goals as possible early on. In the ongoing FIH Series Finals, world no. 5 India have been scoring goals at will against weaker opponents but they would want this trend to continue against the best teams of the world as well. “One of the things I have spoken with the boys is that we will get 2-3 opportunities in the first five minutes and that will vary depending on which team you are playing. The idea is to make sure we use them,” India’s chief coach Reid said.
“Something we always try to do is to create opportunities early on and put pressure on the opposition not just here but against top teams as well. “We are always wanting to score more goals but those things take time to get better. We are working with the strikers but I am happy that we are creating opportunities and that is very important,” the 56-year-old Australian added. Striker Akashdeep Singh, who scored a hat-trick against Uzbekistan in India’s last pool match, agreed with his coach.
“Can’t take any team lightly in such competitions but our focus on the pitch is to play with a positive attitude. Score a few goals at the start to put scoreboard pressure on the opposition,” he said. Another Indian striker at the center of attraction here is Ramandeep Singh, who is making a comeback to the national team after being sidelined for nearly a year following a career-threatening knee injury. Ramandeep so far looked rusty in the tournament and is yet to open his account despite India witnessing a goal rush here.
“It feels great to partner Raman (Ramandeep) at the front. We understand each other very well on and off the ground. It’s very difficult for a player to make a comeback in the side after one year. He will improve with every passing day,” said Akashdeep in support of his strike partner. After having booked a direct semifinal berth, India is currently enjoying a three-day break before taking on either Asian champion Japan or Poland in the last-four round on Friday. And the coach said the break augurs well for the team.
“It’s actually good to have some break and work on stuff. Scanning the opposition is also important and the break will help. I don’t think motivation will be a problem. We have to utilise the break in the best way,” Reid said. The ongoing FIH Series Finals here offer two spots in the final round of Olympic qualifiers to be held in October-November this year.