Harendra ready to take on the pressure of results

The chief coach's immediate assignment with the Indian men's hockey team is the Champions Trophy, which gets underway on June 23. He only has six weeks between the end of that tournament and the start of the Asian Games, a competition on which hinges an Olympic Games berth.

India coach Harendra Singh at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

One thing Harendra Singh does not have in his new role is the luxury of time. The chief coach's immediate assignment with the Indian men's hockey team is the Champions Trophy, which gets underway on June 23. He only has six weeks between the end of that tournament and the start of the Asian Games, a competition on which hinges an Olympics berth. In November begins the FIH World Cup on home soil. Harendra, though, is not fazed.

“I don't need time,” he said at the SAI here. “I need time if I don't know anything about the culture of the country, and the behaviour and mindset of the players. But I know everything. I am a part of this family. I look at it as an opportunity. I have three major tournaments and it's a great chance to prove myself.”

Read: Almost everyone in our team has trained under Harendra, says Sreejesh

The revolving door of coaches in Indian hockey did not trouble him, Harendra stated. “My career started in September 1998. I've seen everything, the best and worst of Indian hockey. The pressure is on Harendra and I'm ready to take it. My logic is simple: if you provide results, why would the federation fire you?”

At the Commonwealth Games, India's men converted only 10 of their 39 penalty corners with Harmanpreet Singh, the primary drag-flicker, slotting home five out of 20. The team's conversion rate was worse in the Asia Cup and the HWL Final. India had to improve its PC routine, felt Harendra. “Teams in the podium bracket usually convert 28-32% of their penalty corners. We must also understand that once a drag-flicker earns a reputation, he is on the radar of rival teams. They start preparing to stop him. So the time has come for us to try some indirect variations. We need to mix it up.”

Also read: HI names 48 players for camp ahead of Champions Trophy

India's forwards had to finish better too, he added. “We were getting into the circle (at the CWG) but we were not in the right position to score the goal. It's not necessary to shoot all the time. We need to use our wrists and deflect the pass in rather than waste precious time trying to the ball and shoot.”

The team had to start thinking about the World Cup already, said Harendra. “We have a World Cup in our backyard. Since 1975, we have not even entered the semifinals. All 48 players in the camp should start thinking about making history.”

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