Without seniors, this is India's best team for 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Nobbs

Updated: Dec 13, 2018, 09:44 IST | Ashwin Ferro | Bhubaneswar

The former India coach, credited for being among those who encouraged youngsters in the senior team between 2011 and 2013, is mighty proud of having contributed in his own small way

Michael Nobbs
Michael Nobbs

It is past midnight in Sydney when India plays its 7pm hockey World Cup matches, but Michael Nobbs, who normally is an early sleeper, has made sure to stay up and catch the action on TV.

The former India coach, credited for being among those who encouraged youngsters in the senior team between 2011 and 2013, is mighty proud of having contributed in his own small way. "I said long before India won the Junior World Cup [2016] that this will be your side for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Getting rid of some of the older players like Sardar Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh will speed up play," Nobbs told mid-day from Down Under.

Sardar's exit has been a blessing for Indian hockey, says the Australian, who currently coaches Westfield Sports High School and St George Randwick Hockey Academy back home. "Sardar was finished a few years ago. When he was brought back into the team for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament and then the Asian Games earlier this year, it was obvious that he had slowed down a lot. The younger players were looking for the correct ball to play, but Sardar was slowing the game down as he wanted the ball and that slowed things down far too much," added Nobbs.

In the same breath, however, Nobbs also broke Indian hockey lovers' hearts when he held the Netherlands in high esteem. "Netherlands are my first choice to win this World Cup because they are experienced, fast and well coached [by Maximiliano Caldas who coached the Dutch women's team to the 2014 World Cup title].

"Besides, they have proven goal scorers at this level and three-four world-class penalty corner drag flickers [Jeroen Hertzberger, Thierry Brinkman, Mink van der Weerden and Jorrit Croon].

"But having said that, the younger players in Team India have played with each other for three to four years now, so they have a great understanding. "They also don't have a history of losing a lot of matches, so every time they go out, they expect to win," says Nobbs, who was in charge when India won gold at the inaugural 2011 Asian Champions Trophy in Ordos, China.

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