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ACT W 2016: DHARMARAJ:A HOPE FOR HOPELESS TEAMS (11/2/2016)
--K. Arumugam
ACT W 2016: DHARMARAJ: A HOPE FOR 'HOPELESS' TEAMS

When the hooter came the entire Malaysian team, some of them sporting stylish head scarves, jumped in joy and the merry celebrations continued for a while. The Japanese girls who had never lost to Malaysia in decades were in a state of shock and disbelief. Malaysian girls have just beaten Japan in their last pool match at Senkong Sports Centre where the Asian Champions Trophy is underway in Singapore. Only 24 hours ago, the same set of girls made the Rio returned Indian ladies sweat before conceding a narrow 2-0 win.

Not long ago, all these Asian powerhouses used to whip the Malaysian girls for tennis like scores.

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A change has occurred.

Malaysian girls have begun to defend, hold, last and make impact.

The man behind the Malaysian women’s emerging story is the same Dharmaraj, whose colts had won the Men’s Junior Asia Cup in Malacca first and then earned a surprise semifinal slot in the last Junior Men’s World Cup, taming en route the Indian juniors at home in the quarters three summers ago.

Malaysian juniors were even struggling to get Word Cup entry before Dharmaraj's boys surprised everyone four years ago.

In a freewheeling discussion even as the euphoria of his joy yet to drain out completely, Dharmaraj, who played top level hockey for Malaysia, spoke to www.stick2hockey.com.

The situation when Dharmaraj took over the mantle of Malaysian women’s coaching was left much to be desired.

The Malacca’s miracle coach elaborates his initial tryst with the set of 'hopeless' punch:

“When I took over the team, it was considered a 'hopeless' team, and second class. But the new management has injected a sense of hope and confidence. I also came in right time. The girls were made to understand that the coach won’t settle for anything less than success. Therefore, they started working hard for the last 8 to 9 months”.

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If you start well, you will finish well. The coach followed the same path.

"My focus has been general fitness especially strength. I made it compulsory of certain things. For instant when the players assemble for the morning, they should take protein. They have to consume protein in front me. I increased the gym training five times a week. The other things I did, which produced fair amount of result, is changing the mindset, mindset of senior players playing full time of the match. I stopped this practice in tune with world trend. Effective use of rolling substitution was implemented”.

Then Dharmaraj turned to basics.

“On the game side, my focus was on crucial penalty corner drills. Of making use of them and defending them. It’s a complex area of work. I found the push was not proper. If the push is going to be weak for an example, then the whole thing will not work. Constant training was imparted. An element of novelty was sought to be injected. Drag flick was given importance. First runner, goalkeeper drills, and whole lot of other things”.

When you try to change things, how do the girls responds to the changes? Were they ready to adopt, accept to changes or was there any mental resistance kind of things?

”One thing I tell you. These girls are committed and punctual, and time conscious ones. This helped me set things right. Yes, initially there was apprehension and fear, but once they understood the significance of things being asked to do and then they guy who pushes means business, things take shape and fall in line”.

Simultaneously, all out effort has been made consistently to enlarge vision, to come out of SEA Games chrysalis and to set higher target for themselves. undefined

“Slowly and slowly I got them realize that they can achieve beyond SEA Games. They can compete and qualify for the World Cup. Which is of course my target, and am quite successful in drilling a bigger ambition in their minds”.

”Now, they believe in themselves, go for extra mile in practice session, and stretch themselves to limit”.

”Now these girls are convinced that they can achieve more and can be in the running for World Cup. With 16 team World Cup in the offing, I am too hopeful of that. From the day one, my target is world cup”.

“Our target before coming here was to force at least one draw in four matches! ”.

“And of course to tell the top four here that we are not push over. The target itself mirrored perfectly as to where we stand. Now we have exceeded it, beating Japan and creating a real chance of finishing among top four here. We were very close against India, and had a solitary goal lead for entire first half against China, all teams ranked well above us.”

“At this point of time in the Singapore event, I am confident the girls will be a force to reckon with not only in the Asian level but well beyond”.

When the words come from the mouth of Dharmaraj, you tend to agree.

Mark his words for future.

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