After getting over the disappointment of the World Cup failure and having the opportunity to reflect on its performance, India skipper Harmanpreet Singh was insistent on improving the team’s structure as it looks forward to a new era in the men’s hockey team.
Graham Reid has moved on with South African Craig Fulton tasked with taking the team forward. But Fulton would not be directly involved in coaching duties until the end of April with former national team high-performance director David John stepping in in an interim capacity. Fresh legs have been added to the squad as the Pro League resumes on Friday with India taking on world champion Germany at the Birsa Munda International Stadium in Rourkela.
While Harmanpreet does not know whether there will be a change in the team’s style, he hopes the team can improve on its structure both in and out of possession. The team’s structure and composure on the ball were severely scrutinised during the World Cup, where India let a two-goal lead slip in the crossover defeat to New Zealand.
“Strategy has changed a bit but we will try to bring in a new structure. If first and second quarters are going well, then we need to continue doing the good things. These are learning matches but of course, results do matter. If we want to plan and try something new, this is the time to do it,” said Harmanpreet.
He added, “It’s a good opportunity [Pro League] for players to play against good teams. For players who haven’t played a lot, it’s an opportunity to do well and help them quickly get settled into the team. Whatever I said earlier about improving the structure, it’s important you try it out in match scenarios. We played a couple of matches against junior teams, who play with a tempo of a senior team, in the camp. We will be able to see if our structure works or not in the upcoming games. So we will try to maintain what we practised. Mainly, we will try to keep ball possession as much as possible.”
India had the most circle entries – 155 – in the World Cup but was wasteful with its finishing and overzealous in forcing shots. “In the camp [in Bengaluru] we spoke and worked on it. To make sure we have three targets and if we are not able to do that, we need to focus on keeping the ball and not giving it away cheaply. The main focus is on handling pressure and improving our decision-making,” said Harmanpreet.