Zero mar­gin of er­ror in a quar­ter­fi­nal


Ac­cord­ing to coach Haren­dra Singh, the na­tional team’s per­for­mance in its first game at the World Cup will give an in­di­ca­tor of its chances in Bhubaneswar — for ev­ery­one, the play­ers, the fans, the me­dia. But for him, the big­gest match will be in the quar­ter­fi­nals. “That game de­cides whether you get a medal or bow out of the race. There is zero mar­gin of er­ror in a quar­ter­fi­nal. If we go past that, In­dia wouldn’t look back,” said Singh. In an in­ter­view ahead of the World Cup, he also spoke about how Aus­tralia’s dom­i­na­tion has changed the game, player ed­u­ca­tion and how the Hockey In­dia League has im­proved the play­ers’ con­fi­dence.

The Asian Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy was the fi­nal com­pet­i­tive out­ing for the na­tional team be­fore the World Cup. What lessons have the team and staff learnt?

I wouldn’t say lessons be­cause a lot of things we knew. What we worked on was rec­ti­fy­ing what went wrong at Asian Games. Most im­por­tant was posses­sion, be­cause un­less you keep posses­sion, you can­not score. Also, the op­po­si­tion has to ex­pend en­ergy to first snatch the ball and then try and build moves; that can lead to er­rors.

We also worked on pass­ing and re­ceiv­ing op­tions. We al­ways try in train­ing that ev­ery player should have a min­i­mum of three op­tions to play a ball and also play in a way that his team­mate has three op­tions to play fur­ther. De­ci­sion­mak­ing is some­thing we are work­ing on and it is up to the in­di­vid­ual to de­cide which op­tion to ex­e­cute. It may some­times go wrong, but that is al­ways a work in progress.

The com­pe­ti­tion in Oman was al­most the same as at the Asian Games and many of the teams will be there at the World Cup. In that sense, how much clar­ity is there in terms of struc­ture, plan­ning and ar­eas of con­cern?

Struc­ture­wise we are very con­fi­dent and com­fort­able be­cause some progress is pos­si­ble only if you have a good struc­ture — cir­cle en­tries, shots at goal, penalty cor­ners, etc. And, if those num­bers are ris­ing, as we have seen, then clearly there is at­tack­ing sharp­ness.

But we also need to go deeper. I feel in terms of en­tries, Asia is bet­ter than some of the Euro­pean teams, but we have to con­vert them into shots at the World Cup. Also, once in­side the cir­cle, you have to take quick de­ci­sions on whether to shoot or pass. No team will give easy space or chances. It’s a con­stant bat­tle be­tween striker and de­fender and we have to force the op­po­nent to make an er­ror, keep fight­ing the de­fence and get to the ball first. There needs to be a change of po­si­tion­ing and men­tal­ity and we have worked on it. But with the World Cup close, we are hav­ing ex­tra classes for them.

How do you see the World Cup in terms of tar­gets for the team, the play­ers and your­self?

See, no team goes to a World Cup to sim­ply par­tic­i­pate and In­dia is one of the 16 con­tenders for the ti­tle. What we did dur­ing the Ju­nior World Cup and other tour­na­ments


League boost: With HIL, con­fi­dence has in­creased both for na­tional and non­na­tional play­ers, says Haren­dra Singh.

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