For most teams, the opening games in a calendar year leading up to the Olympics would be about warming up to the big event and trying to figure out the right combination.

It has been the same for World No. 3 The Netherlands in its Hockey Pro League games here and coach Max Caldas was more than happy with his team’s performance on Sunday despite it going down to India in the shootout.

“We spoke about playing the way we want to play, not about winning or losing. Hockeywise and physically, today it was a good sign that in less than a day, we can step up and come to play the way we want to. Today we played our natural hockey. Some of the things did not go our way but we did not sit back to defend our lead,” Caldas said.

“The scoreline doesn’t matter, playing good hockey is crucial. Eventually, it is going to come to a point where every win will matter but this is just the start of the year, it’s about developing a system of play and, seeing from yesterday, it’s a really good step-up,” he added.

REPORT | Hockey Pro League 2020: India beats Netherlands 3-1 in shootout

Tokyo tune-up

In the past, an India win against the mighty Dutch, twice in a row, would have meant yet another false alarm of revival for the game and dreams of a glorious future. For India coach Graham Reid, though, this win was only a stepping stone to knowing more about what the team needed to do in the run-up to Tokyo.

“I don’t think the pressure is off but every coach wants to see things go their way at the beginning of a season. It's nice when you are around the place you need to be. There are a lot of things to do between now and Tokyo, we let ourselves down in the 2nd quarter again and there were a lot of opportunities in the 1st. There is always room to improve, I think we can do better in one-on-one tackling. When the chips are down, the ability to do the simple things right is important,” Reid said.

As it happened: India beats Netherlands 3-1 in shootout, Highlights FIH Hockey Pro League 2020

Rupinder Pal Singh, enjoying a second wind with the national side and making the most of it, admitted the seniors had to take more responsibility. “I think there is now more maturity that comes with experience. Now everyone motivates others even when you make mistakes. Earlier, a mistake would mean you keep going down in performance and we would not be confident of fighting back when trailing. But now we believe we will keep getting our chances, we just have to keep pressing ahead,” he said.

That is the one thing Reid seems to have drilled into the team, the importance of moving forward. “We need to get more confident at moving forward even when there is pressure and things are not going well.

“Earlier, if there was no space or we wanted to play safe, we would pass the ball backwards. Now, the first option is to look to go forward, pass ahead. That puts more pressure on the opposition defence. When we say a team is aggressive, that’s what it does. We are trying to do that now,” Rupinder said.