A ‘matured’ Indian hockey team may have earned a piece of history at the Champions Trophy but the players need to play much better to stand on the podium at the Rio Games, says chief coach Roelant Oltmans.
The 62-year-old Dutch said India’s performance against against Germany and Argentina at the upcoming six-nation invitational tournament, beginning here Monday, will set the tone for the Games.
“I believe our consistency has improved considerably but we need to get better. The next six weeks will be crucial in terms of peaking at the right time. When it comes to the Olympics, the big teams like world champions Australia and Germany (defending Olympic champions) always raise their bar and I keep reminding this to our players,” Oltmans said.
“The level we played in Champions Trophy will not be enough for the Olympics if we are vying for a medal.”
India will begin their campaign against Olympic Champions Germany on Monday and play minnows Ireland the following day.
They will also lock horns against hosts Spain and New Zealand in the event.
“How we play against Argentina and Germany in the 6- Nations tournament will set the momentum to achieve our goals at the Olympics. The focus will be to take it game-by-game and the result will follow if our process is in order and we stick to executing the game plan we have for each of the teams.”
The chief coach feels India is now at par with the top teams in the world and on a good day, can upset any side.
“We played back-to-back matches in London and never let a loss affect our next game. For instance, after drawing the opener with Germany we beat Britain. Though we lost to Belgium, we beat Korea, lost to Australia but drew the final against them. This shows that we have matured as a team and can handle losses better and the level of fitness the boys have shown while playing back-to-back games is a good sign for us,” he stated.
The week-long tournament will see skipper Sardar Singh back in action while other rested players for Champions Trophy, Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep Singh, promise to add steam to the team’s performance.
Birendra Lakra, who was nursing a knee injury, will also be seen gaining some match exposure for the first time in four months.
Oltmans also made it clear that performance in this tournament will be kept in mind in selecting squad for the Rio Games.
“I am pleased the players have carried out their responsibilities and showed their leadership skills when we rotated the captain’s band in London. The youngsters doing well means that the competition will be stronger within the team to push each other higher to make the final cut for the Rio squad. And this tournament will be watched closely on how each player performs ahead of the final selection,” concluded the Indian hockey chief coach.