Marijne's men eager to clinch Asia Cup

The Dutchman, who was hitherto coaching India's women, took charge of the men's team last month in place of Roelant Oltmans.

Indian hockey players S.V. Sunil (L) and Manpreet Singh (R) at the Sports Authority of India in Bengaluru on Friday.   -  SHREEDATTA CHIDANANDA

S.V. Sunil and Manpreet Singh have spoken favourably of Sjoerd Marijne's approach as the Indian men's hockey team prepares for next week's Asia Cup in Dhaka. “He is very supportive and positive,” said Sunil here on Friday. “Ever since he joined us he has not said anything negative. He always believes in aiming to be the number one side. If we target the top spot now, we will be able to achieve it in the future.”

Marijne, who was hitherto coaching India's women, took charge of the men's team last month in place of Roelant Oltmans. “Both of them are from Holland and there is not much difference between the two in terms of playing style,” said Manpreet, who will continue to lead the side. “Sjoerd hasn’t changed our game much and has made only slight modifications. In previous tournaments, we have struggled in our penalty corner conversions; so we're working on that as well.”

With the return of Sunil, Sardar Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Akashdeep Singh — all of whom were rested for the tour of Europe — India should be a stronger force in Marijne's first assignment. “It's not that we have to win for the sake of the new coach; our target is to win every tournament. But this is his first task and we want to start off with a win and take the momentum forward,” said Sunil.

The 28-year-old forward admitted he needed that break in August. “It was much-needed. I had played back to back tournaments. I wasn’t personally satisfied with my form at the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinal. I faced personal issues too. My brother-in-law passed away during the tournament and I couldn’t concentrate. Now, I feel better.”

India has been grouped alongside Japan, Pakistan and host Bangladesh in Pool A. “We won't take any team lightly,” said Sunil.

“We learnt our lesson in the HWL semifinal when we lost to Malaysia.”