India ready to unleash Total Hockey against Total Football-inventors, the Netherlands

Updated: Dec 12, 2018, 08:34 IST | Ashwin Ferro | Bhubaneswar

The Indian team's training drills at the Kalinga Stadium here have intensified, and the emphasis is Total Hockey, where any player can play in any position

India coach Harendra Singh
India coach Harendra Singh

It's an irony that Total Football, a concept invented by the Netherlands football team in the 1970s, will be applied by Team India, albeit it's Total Hockey this time, when the two teams clash in the World Cup quarter-finals tomorrow.

The Indian team's training drills at the Kalinga Stadium here have intensified, and the emphasis is Total Hockey, where any player can play in any position. A concept first introduced to India by Balkishen Singh in the 1980s and then applied a fair bit by coach PA Raphael later, seems to have been mastered by current chief coach Harendra Singh.

Push-ups for punishment
At training yesterday, Harendra first let the players go their own way with the ball. Then, he suddenly blew a short sharp whistle and every player had to instantly stop whatever he was doing and sprint towards him. It's been a constant at practice, where the last man to arrive, in this case striker Mandeep Singh, must do 10 push-ups. Harendra then made sets of four - a mix of forwards, midfielders and defenders - and made them attack in waves. So if forward Simranjeet Singh was the main attacker in one move from the right, then the other had striker Dilpreet Singh move in from the same flank. Then, midfielder Manpreet Singh would lead one attack, followed by defender Varun Kumar. Anyone and everyone played attacker.

The next exercise saw two teams play 6v6 across the breadth of the field with no goalkeepers. The teams had to take the ball to the other end and bring it back - so while the forwards began the attack from one end, the defenders would initiate an attack from the other - again ensuring flexibility in positions. "We are enjoying this flexibility in play - changing flanks and opposition at any time," said India forward Akashdeep, who began the match against Canada from the right and then switched to left after the first half.

'No forward or defender here'
"There is no forward or defender in this team. All 11 players are forwards and all 11 players are defenders because they have to fall back in defence and help out in attack when needed," Harendra said. Come Thursday and India could well beat the Total inventors at their own game.

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