Chris Ciriello aims to improve India’s dragflicking abilities

The 32-year-old has been appointed the analytical coach earlier this year and been working with the Indian hockey team's drag-flickers.

Chris Ciriello shot to limelight with his hat-tricks in The Hague World Cup and 2014 Commonwealth Games finals.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

The Indian men's hockey team returned from the 2014 Commonwealth Games with a silver medal, after a 4-0 defeat at Australia's hands in the final in Glasgow. The star of the show was Chris Ciriello, one of the finest drag-flickers of his generation, who smashed in three penalty corners to seal India's fate. Four years on, Ciriello – whose mother hails from Kolkata -- finds himself in the Indian camp as the team prepares for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

The 32-year-old, who was appointed the analytical coach earlier this year, has been working with the team's drag-flickers at the SAI here. “There is a lot of potential,” he says. “It is about having the right routine, and also being able to perform under pressure. It is OK to flick when you are one or two goals up but when you are one goal down with five minutes to go or when you are in the final is when you need to execute.”

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Ciriello himself seems to have coped fairly well with such pressure. A few months before that effort in Glasgow, he had scored a hat-trick in the final of the World Cup, against the Netherlands. “There is no one player who is bigger or better than the whole team,” he says.

“If you are the flicker you are not there only to flick. Out of the 60 minutes, you might play 40 and you might just get one PC or none.”

A penalty corner routine has many pieces that must all fall in place. Ciriello admits he has a lot to work on. “It is not only about the drag flickers. The ball must be injected well. Ours must be quicker by another 5 to 10 kmph. The trap has to be 100 percent clean. There are 33 different types of skill between the pick-up and the release.”

India's drag-flickers – Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas and Varun Kumar --  all have different styles and methods. Ciriello intends to work with them on their deceptions, speed and accuracy. The team also has to defend penalty corners better, he believes, with the men on the post and the first runner needing much improvement.

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It is important, Ciriello adds, to have done some homework ahead of a match. “Before the last World Cup, I sat on the computer for almost four hours, looking at where the defenders ran, where the goalkeeper stood...everything,” he says. “I will sit with them and we will go through all of it. We need a good push and a good trap. If we don't have that, it does not matter how good the drag-flicker may be.”