New Delhi: Discharging duel responsibility in a crucial tournament is not a new thing for Indian hockey's High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans whose primary focus now is to prepare the team as best as he can for the Champions Trophy in the absence of just-retired coach Terry Walsh.
For the second time in his stint with Indian hockey, Oltmans had to double up as a coach and High Performance Director in an important event after Australian Walsh quit from his post recently following the breakdown of his contractual talks with Hockey India and Sports Authority of India. But the legendary Dutchman was unfazed by the challenge at hand and said he prefers to look forward than ponder about the past.
"I have done that before as well in the 2013 Asia Cup. It's not the most good thing but at this moment we have to look forward and ensure we prepare the team as good as we can for the Champions Trophy. It's an important tournament where 8 best teams of the world will be competing," said Oltmans about his immediate task at hand.
"The morale of the team is good because we clearly know there are distractions in every process. But at this moment we only want to look forward. We are just looking at the Champions Trophy and trying to make sure that we are prepared as good as possible," he told reporters after the team's training session at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here yesterday.
"The boys are training hard, they are eager to learn, they are open for suggestions. "I know there are high expectations so we have to play accordingly. The boys are really keen to once again produce a fantastic performance in 2014," he added. Oltmans refused to predict about India's final result in the Champions Trophy but said for him what is important is "performance".
"I never talk about the outcome because its not in our hands. What in our hands is the performance level. I only know is that we need to prepare ourselves to give a good performance," he said. Oltmans also refused to discuss about the possible successor of Walsh, saying right now all his energies are focussed on the Champions Trophy to be held in Bhubaneswar from December 6-14.
"At this moment that is not something that keeps me busy. Right now I need all my energy to focus on the job at hand and ensure the team performs well in the Champions Trophy. That is my priority right now to be honest. But straight after Champions Trophy that (new coach selection) will be my concern. I guess that is part of the job of a High Performance Director."
Asked whether Gurjinder Singh's inclusion in the team will create a problem of plenty for him in the drafglicking department, Oltmans said: "Absolutely not. Gurjinder deserves a spot in the team. We can see in his test results how he has improved in the last one year. That's really fantastic. For us it's only positive that we now have three dragflickers."
"Chandi has groin injury so we had to chose between a couple of forwards like Mandeep, Yuvraj and Lalit and in the end Lalit got the nod because of his performance in the Australia tour." "I am not concerned about finishing because I know all of these boys can finish. Sunil is is in very good shape at the moment. Nikkin can score goals, we all know Akashdeep can score goals, Lalit can score goals.
In the Australia tour we scored more field goals than penalty corners," he said. India captain Sardar Singh said even though the Australian has quit, they are trying to follow Walsh's schedule and hopes to finish the year on a good note. "This is a major event after the World Cup. This year has been pretty good for Indian hockey and we will try our best to keep the good work going and finish the year on a high," he said.
"There will be pressure but we will also get home support." Talking about Walsh, Sardar said: "He was a good coach but whatever his issues are only Hockey India and SAI can decide. "But we are following the same training schedule. Oltmans and other coaches have been there with us for the last one year and we did not make much changes in our schedule."
Indian goalkeeper and vice-captain PR Sreejesh said the they won't let Walsh's resignation episode effect the performance of the team in the Champions Trophy. "What happens outside the field doesn't affect the team that much. But it definitely becomes a little difficult when a coach who has been there for a year quits before an important tournament.
But all the players know the importance of the Champions Trophy. Our focus would be maintain our consistency," he said. "Going by our performances in the this year I think we have more positives to take into the tournament and we will be hoping for a top four finish in the CT."