Rankings do not not always reflect on performance, and the Indian hockey team, ranked No 10 in the world, proved this yesterday by comprehensively beating World No 4 Great Britain 3-1 to clinch the bronze medal in the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia yesterday.
It’s no wonder then that India coach Michael Nobbs felt the victory was a huge step in the team’s ongoing preparations for next month’s London Olympics. The Australian however, admitted that the Indians needed to rectify quite a few grey areas, especially in attack, if they are to do well at the Games.
Excerpts from an interview.
This win over a formidable World No 4 Great Britain side must rank high up there for you and the Indian team preparing for next month’s London Olympics?
I feel we have been improving steadily over time but we still have a long way to go. This victory was very important as it is the next big step that we needed to take before the Olympics. Great Britain is one of the top teams in the world and we need to be able to beat these teams not just now and then but consistently. That’s what makes a great team. That’s what we’re working towards.
The Indian forwardline does a great job of penetrating some of the best defences in the world, but somehow lacks the finishing touch, like we saw today too. Rectifying this must be a priority considering we can’t afford such missed opportunities in London?
Yes... that is one of the areas we are working really hard on. We need to get that right, and in time. We’ll have to wait and see how that goes.
Do you feel the Indian team has now adjusted to the new blue turf?
Yes and no! To the colour, yes but the turf in London is brand new and still has those characteristics of being slow, bouncy , and hard to run on. Besides, that is not going to change much between now and the Olympics since the turf will not be used after June 10. It’s locked away for security
Are you surprised by the progress made by teams like New Zealand and Argentina (finalists here)?
I was not too surprised by New Zealand as they have their main Olympic team here. They are a very physically imposing, tough and skillful side. In other words, they are good.
Finally, despite the fine show in the Olympic qualifiers you were not willing to say that this Indian team can bid for a podium finish in London. Does this win change your stance?
They are on the way, but the Top 12 teams in the world will be playing each other in the Olympics and there will be upsets and drama, and so it should be. I will give my opinion on this later, when we have a few more matches under our belt in Spain. We are improving but still have some way to go. However, I am a hard task master and do expect a lot from our players as well.