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The Hindu: Indian hockey teams were willing to adapt and improve (8/23/2019)
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The Hindu: Indian hockey teams were willing to adapt and improve

Uthra Ganesan

Men’s coach Reid wants to broaden the player base not only for selections but also in leadership.

The Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams won their respective contests at the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo but the learnings for both sides were more about understanding themselves.

And both proved willing to adapt and improve. If the men bounced back from a disappointing last-minute loss to New Zealand in the group stages to win the final with a comprehensive 5-0 scoreline, the women remained undefeated all through, including a last-minute equaliser against World No. 2 Australia.

Experimenting

The main difference between the two sides was whereas the women played to full strength, the men’s side experimented with resting a few seniors and playing youngsters and seniors returning from injury to get a better idea of the squad in the lead-up to the Olympic qualifiers later this year.

“One of the objectives of this tour was to try and broaden the player base not only for selections but also in leadership. What I saw of Harmanpreet (captain) and Mandeep Singh, of leading the group, it was very good.

Indian hockey teams were willing to adapt and improve

“Another objective was to give S.V. Sunil the opportunity to prove himself for November and I think we have been able to do that,” men’s chief coach Graham Reid told The Hindu on the teams’ return here on Thursday.

He also insisted that the loss to NZ was a blessing in disguise. “Part of me was happy, almost, that we had that (loss) because it provides them an opportunity to look inwards and understand how to not let that happen again.

“That 5-0 win against NZ in the league phase would have put a different perspective on the final. We were able to analyse the things that happened in the last 5-10 minutes and get into the heads of the guys and learnt some things,” Reid admitted.

No giving up

While the men had a blip, the women learnt to never give up irrespective of the opposition.

“The team’s mental toughness was really good. We know now that we are much fitter and stronger than before, so we had to hold on and not give up till the very end. Hockey has changed a lot, every second counts and we have seen a lot of teams scoring winners in the very end,” captain Rani Rampal said when asked about the team’s fightback against Australia and the equaliser through penalty corner in the dying seconds.

She added that staying undefeated in the tournament had raised the team’s confidence.

“It gives us confidence that if we perform well in every game and focus on our jobs, we can beat any team at any time,” she said.

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