Currently in Kuala Lumpur to prepare for their FIH Hockey Pro League opener, Netherlands men’s hockey coach Max Caldas didn’t mince his words when he emphasised on the importance of getting off to a good start in the League where they finished third last year behind winners Australia and runners-up Belgium.

“The matches against India are a very important opener. Playing against India at their home ground is challenging no doubt but it is also very exciting because we love playing in Bhubaneswar,” Caldas said.

India and the Netherlands will square off on 18th and 19th January in Bhubaneswar  in the Pro League opener and the contest is expected to be a close affair thanks to the fact that the two rival coaches are well aware of their on-ground tactics.

India chief coach Graham Reid and Caldas have worked together in the past. “Graham is a very experienced Coach and he is very clear about the process and the kind of hockey he expects from the players. I expect India to be as competitive as always and playing in Odisha, they will be very good,” he said.

Caldas also felt that these highly competitive matches will be a good stepping stone for Tokyo Olympics. “The players and combinations we wanted to test were experimented during the previous edition of Pro League. This edition we will have our most competitive team as this will be the stepping stone for us to be the best at Tokyo,” he observed.

However, he also added that they will be cautious in planning the next six months to ensure their players are in the best shape despite being busy with the Pro League and domestic leagues back home. “It is very difficult for us as we will need to plan club hockey as well which is very important. Some of the players may not be with us during that time. We need to make sure we utilise their time with us, but also make sure they are fresh for the club matches as the matches there will be high-level too. In that sense, we will be planning cautiously and managing players load. We will monitor the players in the right way physically and mentally so they are at their best at the right time,” he said.