The Indian men’s hockey team had a topsy-turvy year, losing its coach and close games against lower-ranked teams but winning the Asia Cup in emphatic manner to reiterate its superior position in the continent.
The year began on a disappointing note, with a loss to Malaysia in the semifinal of the Azlan Shah Cup as it ended third in the competition. Malaysia became the team’s nemesis, winning again at the World League Semifinals in London before India got its measure at the Asia Cup twice.
It was a throwback to the inconsistent times of the past when India would play brilliantly in some games and melt down in others. A loss to Canada in London was an added embarrassment. The year also saw Dutchman Roelant Oltmans, the longest serving foreign presence in Indian hockey, finally getting the sack citing poor results as Hockey India sought quick returns and lost patience with his ideas of process and progress.
Oltmans had been with the team for four years, coming in as the High Performance Director but taking charge of the men’s team before the Rio Olympics. At the same time, he also handled the UP Warriors franchise in the Hockey India League. He was replaced by compatriot Sjoerd Marijne — filched from the women’s team — who made a winning start to his tenure by clinching the Asia Cup but got a reality check about the frustrating times, with the inconsistency of Indian hockey at the World League Finals.
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